The Bureau of Justice Statistics has proposed a new data collection requirement over the next three years. The information the Bureau proposes to collect will have significant “practical utility” for many organizations that rely on accurate data to inform their policy analysis and recommendations regarding criminal justice matters. The Council on Criminal Justice is one such organization and submitted a comment in support of the proposed information collection. 

The Council submits in their comment, however, that “the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected can be enhanced” by collecting information about the number of veterans incarcerated in each state and the federal Bureau of Prisons. Veterans may be overrepresented among people held in prison and jail, but there is a dearth of reliable data identifying veterans within these systems. Collecting this data would add meaningfully to the information collection and would constitute only a minimal burden. This comment was submitted with the assistance of Democracy Forward. 

This information is essential. As the comment makes clear, veterans face unique challenges that may increase their risk of involvement in the criminal justice system, and likewise face unique challenges within the criminal justice system itself. The first step to providing veterans with the support needed for successful reentry is identifying both the aggregate number of veterans in any jail or prison system and the individual veterans who would benefit from that support.

In 2013, the VA created the Veterans Reentry Search Services (VRSS) system, a web-based tool that allows correctional facilities to identify justice-involved people with prior military service. Given the accessibility of VRSS, requiring jails and prisons to report the number of veterans in their facility would add only a minimal burden to this information collection.

Read the entire comment here.