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March / April 2009

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March / April 2009


The Veterans Incarcerated Committee would like to hear from veterans incarcerated who are involved in active veterans service organizations. We would like to hear about your organization, including a brief history and a list of its contributions to the prison. Please also discuss the group’s interaction with the staff and any relationships with outside volunteers. Photos would help, too.

VIN-1-95 Veterans in the Criminal Justice System was introduced nearly fifteen years ago when Vietnam veterans represented about 20 percent of the incarcerated population. According to the Sentencing Project, in 2003 an estimated 585,355 military veterans had been convicted of a felony and constitute a significant portion of the disenfranchised population. VIN-1-95 resolves that the American court systems recognize PTSD as a factor of mitigation at time of sentencing and, even more importantly, as a key factor for diversionary programs stressing rehabilitation and community service. Veterans also should have reasonable and appropriate access to veteran benefits and services. This resolution calls upon all local, state, and federal detention facilities to establish working relationships with the Department of Veterans Affairs. VIN-1-95 also resolves that the Department of Justice enforce the reporting mandate necessary for accurate identification of veterans encountered by criminal justice agencies.

VVA has been in the forefront in advocating on behalf of VIN-1-95. The Veterans Specialty Court in Buffalo serves as a model for veterans encountering the justice system. Diversion and treatment programs are emphasized for veterans over prosecution and stigmatization. Legislatures in Minnesota and California have enacted laws and policies that are sensitive to the mental health issues of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. VIN-1-95 remains viable and appropriate for endorsement by Vietnam Veterans of America.

VIN-2-95 VVA Chapter and State Council Relationships with Veterans Incarcerated addresses support of incarcerated veterans organizations by VVA state councils and chapters. Incarcerated Vietnam veterans have the common bond of military service to facilitate veterans service organizations within the prisons. The effective development of prison veterans organizations relies on the support of prison staff and community-based VSOs such as VVA. Resolution VIN-2-95 resolves that VVA state councils act to promote the development of incarcerated chapters. Furthermore, it encourages state councils and chapters to help veterans in their transition from prison or jail. VIN-2-95 remains viable and appropriate for continued endorsement by Vietnam Veterans of America.

VIN-3-01 Veterans Incarcerated Benefits and Entitlement resolves that the VA is responsible for providing benefits to all veterans, including those involved in the justice system. Of particular concern are veterans in need of mental health services that address PTSD.

VIN-3-01 resolves that: 1) The VA more aggressively provide medical treatment and counseling for veterans incarcerated with special emphasis on PTSD and other service-related disabilities; 2) The VA work closer with federal, state, and local correctional facilities to help veterans incarcerated in their rehabilitation; and 3) The VA work more closely with the U.S. Department of Justice to insure reliable methods to identify veterans involved with the justice system.

There has been tremendous progress by the VA in addressing the issues of VIN-3-01. The hiring and training of re-entry specialists by the VA underscore the importance of transitional services for veterans being released from jail and prison. However, VIN-3-01 remains a priority for Vietnam Veterans of America.

The Veterans Incarcerated Committee will present the VIC Resolutions at the National Convention in Louisville and will request the continued support of the VVA membership. VIC will make every effort to minimize financial expenditures in pursuing these resolutions. Congressional hearings may require that funds become available to help VVA present our collective experience to an unsympathetic and unwieldy justice system that was too quick to incarcerate troubled veterans. VIC’s resolutions seek to promote more pragmatic and humanistic alternatives for veterans encountering the justice system. But ultimately, VIC is committed to not abandoning Vietnam veterans who have been seriously challenged and disenfranchised by the criminal justice system and pursue avenues to promote policies at the state and national level addressing executive clemency and pardons where appropriate.

The Veterans Incarcerated Committee: Terry Hubert, Chair; Thomas Burke, Vice Chair. Members: Larry Frazee, Joe Jenkins, Allen Manuel, and Tom Meinhardt. Special Advisors: Pat Davidson, Wayne Miller, and Penny Meinhardt (AVVA). Staff Coordinator: Elaine Chaney.







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