Veterans’ Court Program Description
Harris County District Courts, Criminal Division
The mission of the Harris County Veterans’ Court Program (VC) is to increase access to mental health and addictions treatment for those veterans with felony and misdemeanor offenses by diverting veterans directly into VA treatment, reducing jail time, costs, and criminal recidivism, while improving mental health recovery and successful re-entry into the community.
The HCVC Program handles misdemeanors and felony cases. Misdemeanor probationers can be supervised by the HCVCP team and felony cases can be transferred from the 22 Harris County Criminal District Courts to the HCVC Program. The veterans enrolled in the Veterans’ Court will be represented by a term attorney assigned to the team and will also have a case manager/probation officer assigned to monitor their compliance by the Harris County Community Supervision Department.
The program will also reduce the amount tax dollars spent by the community by decreasing recidivism rates through successful treatment outcomes and community reintegration. Eligibility for the HCVC Program under TX81RSB 1940 requires that the defendant be “a veteran or current member of the United States armed forces, including members of the reserved, national guard, or state guard” that was “arrested for or charged with any misdemeanor or felony offense” and “suffers from a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder, that resulted from the defendant’s military service in a combat zone or other similar hazardous duty area; and materially affected the defendant’s criminal conduct at issue in the case.”
Veterans’ Court participants are expected to assess at medium to high-risk with high needs due to a range of factors: service-related PTSD, damaged friendships and family relationships due to their time in the service, chronic unemployment and homelessness, history of domestic violence, substance abuse history and other mental health issues. These participants require intensive supervision and support to be successful in re-entering society as productive and law-abiding citizens.
The primary goals of the VC program include:
1)Improving access to needed mental health and addictions treatment for jailed veterans;
2)Reducing criminal recidivism through successful treatment outcomes and community reintegration;
3)Improving long-term mental health recovery and community reintegration through involvement in structured, comprehensive treatment;
4)Reducing jail time and resolving felony charges related primarily to mental health, TBI and addiction issues; and
5) Reducing costs associated with unnecessary incarceration