NIJ’s Courts Research

NIJ’s Courts Research: Examining Alternatives to Incarceration for Veterans and Other Policy Innovation
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Linda Truitt
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The link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder is well documented in military populations, especially among veterans who return from deployment with a traumatic brain injury. Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) have expanded rapidly in the past 10 years to accommodate individuals with a history of military service who enter the criminal justice system on charges ranging from driving while intoxicated to property and violent offenses. Like other types of problem-solving courts, VTCs involve multidisciplinary teams that employ a system of supervision combined with treatment and rehabilitation services to reduce relapse and recidivism. However, VTCs lack research-based guidance on target populations and basic program operations. 

This article profiles key studies in the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Courts Research Portfolio on pretrial, prosecution, and sentencing policies that address alternatives to incarceration, including VTCs and other problem-solving courts. Collectively, these research projects demonstrate a history of successful collaborations with federal agencies, court professionals, and expert research teams. This article also highlights findings from NIJ’s Multisite Evaluation of VTCs and discusses recommendations for practice and future research. Together, all of these underscore the need to promote data and research capacity to inform practice and policy, which inspired NIJ’s Courts Strategic Research Plan, 2020-2024. The plan documents NIJ’s commitment to furthering the Department of Justice’s mission through court research, evaluation, and policy analysis.