The Veterans Court Initiative (VCI) supports veterans in legal trouble, as some servicemembers struggle when they exit the military. The VCI is dedicated to helping veterans by working with judicial staff to expand specialty court resources for veterans. New Mexico currently has three specialty court programs focused primarily on veterans with substance abuse related criminal offences. Based on certain criteria, veterans’ cases are diverted away from the normal criminal process and assigned to a team of specialty support administrators.
This diversion program has proven to reduce recidivism and help overcome substance abuse amongst veteran populations. These courts are located in Albuquerque, Alamogordo and Las Cruces and serve a very limited portion of our statewide veteran population. Members of the VCI are working with court staff to find new regions where veterans courts may be appropriate. Four court districts in the state have agreed to identify the needed resources amongst court staff and to establish business practices with other justice partners such as the local District Attorney and Public Defenders offices. Identifying willing staff and resources is the first step to establish new courts and these 4 districts have stepped up to make those parts happen. VCI is also facilitating research into veteran population and distribution within our court system and state to help determine where these resources may be of most value to the citizens.