Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery to testify before Congress In Support of Veterans Treatment Courts

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery will testify before Congress on Thursday in support of a measure that would make federal grant funding available to state and local governments to establish Veterans Treatment Courts across the country.

“The men and women of our Armed Forces have supported our country through their service and suffering in two wars during the last decade,” Justice McCaffery said. “Now, as many of those in uniform return to the civilian world, it is our turn to support them.”

Justice McCaffery will address the House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Programs Subcommittee on Appropriations on HR 3721, the Servicemember Assistance for Lawful Understanding, Treatment and Education (SALUTE) Act. The measure would provide grant funding for Veterans Treatment Courts. The funding would assist veterans, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are struggling with addiction, mental illness, and other disorders.

The subcommittee sets an annual budget for the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Delaware County, introduced the measure 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 courts, along with the Veterans Administration, provide an option for military veterans charged with nonviolent crimes to be diverted into treatment programs offering mental health, drug and alcohol abuse treatment in connection with their diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. This diversion, which is in lieu of incarceration, involves intense community supervision.

“As a veteran with a distinguished career in public service — first as a Marine, and now 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. “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.”

Pennsylvania has more than one million veterans statewide — including Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille and Justice McCaffery, both of whom are decorated Marine Corps veterans. Justice McCaffery is the Supreme Court’s liaison to the state’s problem-solving courts program and has been a leading force in establishing Veterans Courts throughout the Commonwealth.

“I applaud Congressman Meehan and the subcommittee for holding hearings that focus on the difficulties many combat veterans face in returning home to their communities,” Justice McCaffery added. “We have done a lot of good work on this issue in Pennsylvania. 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.”

The first Veterans Treatment Court was established in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2008. Since then, more than 80 such courts have been established across the country. Pennsylvania is one of the leaders in the nation in the creation of Veterans Courts with 12 currently in operation. An additional 10 are in some stage of planning.

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