Diversion is increasingly used by prosecutors in the United States. As an alternative to formal prosecution, diversion programs provide opportunities to avoid conviction, address substance use and mental health needs, and maintain employment and community ties. However, the diversion process can be a source of racial and ethnic disparities. Who gets diverted and who completes diversion successfully has a lot to do with income. Irrespective of skin color, poor individuals are disadvantaged for a variety of reasons, ranging from the quality of legal advice to hefty fees. While we acknowledge that diversion differences can stem from socioeconomic factors, this report focuses specifically on how race and ethnicity influence diversion decisions.
The full report is available here.
Why A Veteran-Specific Approach
One of the most frequent questions an organization considering veteran-specific approaches to corrections asks is “why.” While there is consensus that veterans deserve recognition, discussion remains about whether programming tailored to the needs of veterans is the most compelling way to help justice-involved veterans in the criminal justice system. After all, they share many of the same characteristics as non-veterans. But there is one crucial difference.
Military experience gives veterans work ethics, loyalties, and even skills that separate them from those who have not had similar training. Combat veterans, those who served in combat during service, are a subgroup of veterans who may have even greater needs. To classify veterans without accounting for their unique experience would be to dismiss the benefits of their service and limit access to specialized treatments and care.
In the latest publication of the National Institute of Corrections justice-involved veterans series, Barracks Behind Bars II: In Veteran-Specific Housing Units, Veterans Help Veterans Help Themselves, prison-focused programming for veterans is addressed. The publication is based on interviews with those working in the field, practicing in real time the work it takes to conceive of, develop, and sustain veteran-specific programming in a prison. As you read through the document, you will find that no two programs are exactly the same. This speaks to the flexibility that systems have to create approaches that are based on the talents and resources available in their own immediate area.
Below, you will find an audio snippet of our interview with Liberty. In this clip, he explains his “why.” Why a veteran-specific approach to corrections. We hope you will find his response not only insightful but inspiring. Veteran-specific approaches can be developed in any system. Consider reading Barracks Bars II and others in the justice-involved veterans series to find out why and also how.