Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Roni Mayzer


Military veterans involved with the criminal justice system may have unique behavioral health and physical needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI), and could benefit from sentence mitigation that emphasizes rehabilitation. This research is related to sentencing reform and how it may support problem-solving court sentencing, as a subset of community-based treatment options within the criminal justice system. This research is important in that it attempts to determine whether the law distinguishes veteran offenders, as a specific population, from other offenders with treatment needs. To do that, this dissertation examines the role of legal texts in considering psychological and physiological issues stemming from military service and delineating sentence mitigation options for veteran offenders – especially how statutes and case law allow for the sentencing of offenders with military history to veterans’ courts. It was hypothesized that statutes delineate sentence mitigation criteria specific to veterans and, therefore, inform veterans’ court eligibility criteria. Case law reviews the application of the statutes to individual situations. Statutes and cases based on veterans-related search terms were identified through legal research databases. There were seventy-three applicable statutes across thirty-seven states, and there were thirty-three applicable cases across fourteen states. Key components and a rating table were developed, which were used to code the statutory and case law texts. Then, a content analysis was completed to review the themes within the legal texts. Most prevalent among statutes and cases were themes related to mental health, impaired capacity, and military history. These were also the key components that scored the highest in quantitative ratings of language in the legal texts. Generally, however, there was not as much language related to mitigating sentences for veterans and veterans’ courts as expected. Instead, military history is treated as a mitigating factor as much as mental health and substance use disorders. The researcher concludes that sentencing courts likely consider military history in ordering a referral to veterans’ courts, and then the veterans’ court program itself has eligibility criteria that are assessed after the referral is made. Practical and policy implications, as well as limitations and directions for future research, are discussed.