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VICTOR - Veteran Informed Care Training On Responsivity

Curriculum Development for  
Veteran Informed Care Training on Responsivity (VICTOR)

NIC partnered with the Center for Court Innovation out of New York to develop a curriculum that focused on the responsivity issues of justice-involved veterans; looking at military culture, service-related trauma, difficulties of transitioning from military to civilian life, and building basic skills for staff to more effectively manage the justice-involved veterans on their caseloads. NIC is now partnering with American University to pilot test the training program before making it available to the field.

The core skills would include: active listening, effective use of reinforcement, effective use of disapproval (with and without punishment), and effective use of authority. Ultimately, the goal is to improve outcomes for justice-involved veterans by increasing the skills of the professionals who work with veterans.

Course Description

The Veteran-Informed Care Training on Responsivity (VICTOR) is a training curriculum designed for criminal justice practitioners to gain specialized knowledge and skills for working with veterans. Data consistently shows that court based interventions and programs are most effective when practitioners have specialized training. Accordingly, VICTOR is designed to help practitioners understand the unique needs of veterans and their underlying criminogenic risk factors. The VICTOR curriculum is an educational resource on responsivity issues related to working with justice-involved veterans.

There are approximately 23 million veterans living in the United States, representing over seven percent of the U.S. population. Many active-duty soldiers return home with chronic nightmares, flashbacks, and emotional hypersensitivity—and many veterans are diagnosed with PTSD upon return. Countless others suffer daily from the side effects of trauma, yet do not come to the attention of mental health or medical providers.

Due to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is facing an additional influx of veterans who return home only to face new battles with mental illness, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, homelessness, and despair. The over two million U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq display an incidence of psychological damage significantly higher than the incidence of physical injuries. Approximately one out of six veterans returning from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq has a substance use disorder, and one in five has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. By 2008, 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had been diagnosed with depression or PTSD, both afflictions that have been shown to increase the likelihood of substance abuse and violent behavior. 

As in the general population, veterans experiencing mental health disorders or substance abuse problems frequently exhibit behavioral symptoms that place them at risk for justice system involvement. In 2008, research on hospitalized veterans found that alcohol and drug problems appeared to account for much of the risk of incarceration among this population and an estimated 60 percent of the 140,000 veterans in prison have a substance abuse problem. A study by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2004 found that nearly one in ten inmates in U.S. jails had prior military service.

The criminal justice system and the professionals who work within it must be responsive to the needs of veterans who come through the nation’s police stations, courthouses, and jails. Veterans treatment courts are one popular avenue for addressing the needs of veterans in the criminal justice system. However, there are other types of programs, skills, and approaches which can help courthouses and practitioners practice “veteran-informed care.” The course will cover these programs, skills, and approaches so that practitioners can be more responsive to the needs of veterans in the criminal justice system.

Course Objectives

After completing this training, you will be able to:

  • understand the difference between explicit vs. implicit military culture;
  • understand how veteran and military culture may impact a veteran’s experience and behavior in the courtroom setting;
  • understand the basics of risk, need, and responsivity;
  • demonstrate active listening skills;
  • understand the landscape of services available for veterans; and
  • understand how the confluence of mental health, substance use, and military experience may lead to interactions with the criminal justice system.

The curriculum is divided into five substantive modules, covering the following topics:

  1. Military and Veteran Culture.   
    Module 1 provides information and insight into military and veteran culture. Lesson 1: Military Culture contains an overview of military structure, service roles, and major aspects of military culture. Lesson 2: Veteran Culture asks you to consider the question, who is a veteran? Once you have explored the criteria used to determine veteran status, participants will learn how the challenges involved in the transition from the military back to civilian life leads some veterans to become justice-involved.
  2. Risk Assessment.   
    In Lesson 1: Risk, Need, and Responsivity, you learn how evidence-based screening and assessment is used to differentiate offenders according to risk level and needs. You will be introduced to the risk-need-responsivity model of offender rehabilitation and deepen your understanding of this model through independent study, group discussions, and activities. In Lesson 2: Risk Assessment for Veterans, participants learn how risk assessment can be utilized specifically with the justice-involved veteran population.
  3. Mental Health and Substance Use.   
    Module 3 introduces the ways in which mental health and substance use disorders affects veterans, including the context in which they experience trauma, common symptoms of mental health disorders, and treatment approaches. Lesson 1: Mental Health, gives participants an overview of mental health issues prevalent in justice-involved veteran populations, and related treatment approaches. Lesson 2: Substance Use, informs participants about common substance use disorders amongst veterans, and discusses the relationship between substance use and mental health.
  4. Navigating Veterans’ Resources.   
    Module 4 provides guidance on navigating the variety of important benefits and services available to veterans and to their families from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies. Lesson 1: Navigating the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs discusses the source of the most well-known veterans’ benefits, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. Lesson 2: Other Veterans Resources identifies and explains useful resources outside the federal VA, including state departments of veterans affairs, community-based organizations, and the so-called Big Six veteran service organizations.
  5. Responsivity and Justice-Involved Veterans.   
    In Lesson 1: Case Management, you will receive an overview of case management, including the functions and tasks of the case manager, and discover how case management can improve outcomes for justice-involved veterans. In Lesson 2: Responsivity in the Criminal Justice System, participants discuss several aspects of responsivity in the criminal justice system: veterans treatment courts, procedural justice, domestic violence issues, and corrections-based programming. Lesson 2 also introduces the sequential intercept model for justice-involved veterans and explains how this model can help practitioners identify opportunities for linkage to services, and prevent further involvement in the criminal justice system.