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Shaheen Meets With Judge Leary in Nashua to Discuss Efforts to Help Veterans Find Treatment, Avoid Incarceration

**Their Meeting Follows Shaheen’s Introduction of the Veterans Justice Outreach Act**

(Nashua, NH) – Today, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was in Nashua where she was briefed by Judge James Leary at the 9th circuit court in Nashua on his court’s veterans docket that provides treatment to veterans in the criminal justice system as an alternative to incarceration. Senator Shaheen’s meeting with Judge Leary follows her introduction earlier this month of the Veterans Justice Outreach Act, which would support these legal programs in New Hampshire and around the country. Judge Leary helped establish the first such docket in New Hampshire that helps veterans, particularly those struggling with mental health and substance abuse, by providing structured treatment programs tailored to their individual needs. In their conversation, Judge Leary briefed Senator Shaheen on the veterans docket and informed her of recent examples of veterans of who have successfully completed their programs.  

“There’s a growing consensus that prison sentences are not the answer for many veterans who are in the criminal justice system, particularly those suffering from post-traumatic stress or substance abuse.” said Shaheen. “Thanks to dedicated public servants like Judge Leary, the veterans docket in Nashua is providing struggling veterans a helping hand and a second chance. The federal government can do a much better job supporting these programs, which is why I introduced my legislation.” 

Specifically, Senator Shaheen’s Veterans Justice Outreach Act empowers the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work within the criminal justice system to train law enforcement, courts, attorneys, and legal assistance organizations in order to divert veterans into treatment programs and identify common challenges to reintegrating veterans into society. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 9.3 percent of our nation’s incarcerated population are veterans, 70 percent of them for non-violent offenses.

Senator Shaheen’s legislation formally authorizes the VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program to help judges and prosecutors determine eligibility for VA benefits and enroll veterans in treatment programs.  Providing an alternative path to rehabilitation can often help veterans prevent the development of more serious issues, including further interactions with law enforcement or homelessness.