Stanford Law School hosted a national conference on veterans treatment courts (VTCs), which provide eligible veteran defendants with services and treatment in lieu of jail. The number of VTCs has increased dramatically in recent years with 300 VTCs now operating across the country. The courts are products of state law and, sometimes, county law, and differ widely in terms of eligibility, diversionary procedures, the rule of the presiding judges, and the range of services. Despite the proliferation of VTCs and a general sense of their value, however, there is currently little empirical research on their efficacy, leaving jurisdictions that are considering instituting VTCs to operate without reliable data to guide best practices.
The Veterans Treatment Courts conference brought together scholars, judges, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss the justification for, and operation of, VTCs. Participants discussed such topics as the political economy of specialized courts, methods for evaluating the efficacy of such courts, and how to apply or adapt lessons drawn from the broader context of diversionary and treatment courts. The conference reflects Stanford’s commitment to veterans, and its recognition that, as a research institution, it has an important role to play in providing policymakers and the public meaningful tools with which to better serve veterans and their communities.