Unlike regular courts, veterans treatment courts deal only with former members of the U.S. military who have committed crimes. The courts focus on treatment and counseling instead of punishment.
“The goal is to treat the cause of the criminal behavior, not just penalize it,” said Baldwin. “These courts use jail sentences as a last-resort punishment.”
Baldwin has found these courts address an important long-overlooked issue. Military service can often give way to mental health disorders. If left untreated, it can increase contact with the criminal justice system.
She surveyed veterans. A majority said their service didn’t lead to the crime, but indirectly led to substance abuse or poor mental health, which resulted in a crime.
Baldwin is working to ultimately identify systemic issues, such as the disconnect between veterans and therapy and discover what works for which veterans.
Cross country findings
Baldwin stays busy throughout the year visiting veterans courts and presenting her research at conferences and agencies. She has been to 36 veteran courts across the country, and recently presented her research in Washington D.C.
She hopes to translate research findings and apply them to the system.
Baldwin’s work is received well by leaders in the field of veteran affairs, citing her spirit of discovery and hard work.
“It really makes a difference to those of us trying to help veterans in the justice system, and benefits the veterans themselves greatly,” said a representative of Texas’ Veterans Commission.