A jurist from Pennsylvania’s highest court was set to testify before Congress on Thursday in support of a measure that would make federal dollars available to state and local governments for the establishment of nationwide courts designed to specially treat military veterans who have run afoul of the law.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, himself a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, was expected to address the House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Programs Subcommittee on Appropriations regarding H.R. 3721, also known as the Servicemember Assistance for Lawful Understanding, Treatment and Education (SALUTE) Act, according to a news release from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The law would make available federal grant money for Veterans Treatment Courts, which are designed to assist veterans, such as those returning from war zones, who suffer from substance addiction, mental illness and other disorders.
“The men and women of our Armed Forces have supported our country through their service and suffering in two wars during the last decade,” McCaffery said in the AOPC news release. “Now, as many of those in uniform return to the civilian world, it is our turn to support them.”
Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Rep Patrick Meehan, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, introduced the House bill in December 2011 to address the post-traumatic stress, mental illness, drug abuse and alcohol dependency that bring many veterans in contact with the criminal justice system, the AOPC news release states.
The specially designed Veterans Courts are designed to provide an alternative option to incarceration for those veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law.
Those veterans charged in nonviolent crimes could instead be entered into treatment programs that involve “intense community supervision,” the release states.
“As a veteran with a distinguished career in public service – first as a Marine, and now as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice – Justice McCaffery is uniquely qualified to appear before Congress to testify on the importance of funding for Veterans Treatment Courts, which would be authorized under my bill – the SALUTE Act,” Congressman Meehan said in a statement. “I am grateful for Justice McCaffery’s support for the legislation, as he has been a leading advocate for Veterans Treatment Courts and can speak to their effectiveness. He understands how important restorative justice is for our veterans.”
McCaffery, who has been a big proponent of setting up Veterans Courts throughout Pennsylvania, which the AOPC said has more than one million veterans statewide, said in his statement that he praises Meehan and the subcommittee for holding hearings that focus on the “difficulties many combat veterans face in returning home to their communities.
“We have done a lot of good work on this issue in Pennsylvania,” McCaffery added. “Our experience has taught us that Veterans Courts can provide significant improvement in the quality of life for service men and women who have put their lives on the line for this country.”
According to the AOPC, the first Veterans Court was established in 2008 in New York. More than 80 more have been established nationwide since that time, including 12 in Pennsylvania with another 10 on the way.