Veterans Justice Update

Updates to the Veterans Courts and programs are recorded as necessary.

November 2015

  • Justice Debra Todd speaks at the Mid-Atlantic States Correctional Association (MASCA), Pennsylvania Department of Veterans & Military Affairs, PCCD, and OMHSAS joint conference “Partnering to Support Justice Involved Veterans” held at Fort Indiantown Gap. AOPC representatives Karen Blackburn and Andy Simpson presented a breakout session on PTSD and veterans in the courts.

September - October 2015

  • In the fall of 2015, Justice Debra Todd hosted “Veterans and Pennsylvania Courts,” six regional forums discussing programming for veterans who come into contact with Pennsylvania courts. These sessions served three purposes:  1) to provide a forum for counties operating successful veterans courts to share their experiences; 2) to enable counties thinking of starting a program to learn more about it; and 3) to enable counties not wishing to start a program to learn more about the services and resources available to assist veterans who come in contact with the courts.  Dr. Andre Watson, a Philadelphia psychologist, and  Dr. Jack Rozel, the medical director at re:solve Crisis Network in Pittsburgh, presented on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and related criminal behavior. Additionally, panels of experts convened and shared their experiences with operating a veterans court and working with veterans. The forums drew dozens of participants including judges, court administrators, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

September 2014 – May 2015

  • AOPC provided a veterans programing update to all magisterial district judges attending the 2014-2015 Minor Judiciary Education Board’s (MJEB) weekly continuing education classes by addressing veterans courts at the Court of Common Pleas level and the MDJ veterans diversion program. Emphasis was made to the early identification and intervention of veterans who come into contact with the justice system. More than 500 MDJs were in attendance during the course of the year.

June 2014

  • A group consisting of Veterans Court Team members from around the Commonwealth was convened at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg to develop performance measures for Veterans Treatment Courts. The two-day workshop was facilitated by the National Center for State Courts. The measures developed by this team will be peer reviewed by experts from around the country and then released as a resource for courts nationwide.

December 2013

  • Over two-thousand people gathered in Washington, DC for the first national conference on Veterans Treatment Courts. Karen Blackburn, Program Administrator with the AOPC, was a presenter on two panels held during this four day event.

October 2013

  • Team members of six Veterans Courts from around the Commonwealth gathered in Harrisburg to participate in a three day training, facilitated by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, to develop policies and procedures for the operation of their respective programs. Judge Robert Russell, who started the first veterans court in the country, was among the facilitators of this training.

March-September 2013

  • With funding from the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, the National Center for State Courts was selected to conduct a process evaluation of the longest operating veterans courts. In addition to completing a thorough literature review and developing a profile of every operational Veterans Court in Pennsylvania, a team from the National Center conducted site visits of the seven longest operating programs, during which members of the court teams were interviewed and focus groups with program participants and volunteer veteran mentors were conducted. The final report is expected to be released in the Fall, 2014.

November 2012

  • First pilot MDJ Diversion Program is announced in Centre County

September 2012

  • Received a grant award from the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a process evaluation of the longest operating veterans courts in the Commonwealth
  • A new treatment court opens in Snyder County and Union County

August 2012

  • Justice McCaffery and Director Moreland speaks at the Conference of County Commissioners in Hershey

July 2012

  • York County starts a treatment court

March 2012

  • A drug/DUI court opens in Wyoming County

January 2012

  • Lancaster County opens its treatment court

September 2011

  • AOPC and the Veterans Administration conducts training, begins working with MDJs to implement program
  • Online training program for volunteer veteran mentors launches; program was developed in partnership with AOPC and Robert Morris University
  • Justice Seamus P. McCaffery and other judicial leaders testify on Veterans Courts at a hearing called by the chair of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee and Committee on Veterans Affairs

August 2011

  • AOPC presents possible diversion model for law enforcement at County Commissioners Conference
  • AOPC conducts a one-day training for all veterans justice outreach specialists in Pennsylvania's criminal justice system

July 2011

  • Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and Justice McCaffery introduce concept of diversion by MDJ to president judges at the annual trial judges conference

June 2011

  • Supreme Court approves concept of diversion by MDJs

February 2011

  • Satellite media tour featuring Justice McCaffery and Director Michael Moreland of Veterans Integrated Services Network for Pennsylvania results in stories by numerous media outlets in Pennsylvania; the Veterans Justice Partnership logo is developed for this project

January 2011

  • Karen Blackburn of AOPC heads a committee to draft guidelines for diversion of veterans by MDJs

July 2010

  • VA representatives present to MDJs at their annual conference

January 2010

  • Statewide Veterans Justice Partnership Task Force is established to provide oversight of coordination efforts and to influence policy when appropriate 

October 2009

  • VA conducts the first training of probation officers in VA services in Allegheny County
  • Judge Michael Barrasse opens the first Veterans Court in Lackawanna

June 2009

  • The AOPC hosts a two-day symposium for all problem solving courts coordinators in Pennsylvania

April 2009

  • Justice McCaffery is one of eight representatives from the nation's judiciary invited to Washington D.C. by Central Offices of the Veterans Administration to strategize national programming for veterans coming into contact with the criminal justice system

March 2009

  • AOPC prepares and distributes a report on "Veterans in Pennsylvania's Courts"

February 2009

  • Justice McCaffery and VISN Director Moreland meet for the first time and establish the courts/VA partnership

November 2008

  • At the request of the president judge and under the direction of the Supreme Court, Karen Blackburn of AOPC arranges a site visit to the Veterans Court in Buffalo, New York