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Actor Martin Sheen returned to Congress this week to testify in favor of authorizing drug court funding for veterans in 2012. He asked legislators to expand drugs courts for civilians and veterans who are dealing with substance abuse.

Medill News Service reports that veterans’ drug courts are designed to help veterans who have committed low-level drug crimes to get substance abuse treatment, so they can stay out of the criminal justice system.

Sheen, who played a president on the TV show “The West Wing,” helped set up a civilian drug court system in Berkeley, CA, the article notes. He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, asking for $88.7 million in funding for the courts.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration released its 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, which will encourage support for special courts for veterans with substance abuse issues and mental illness.

According to a Justice Department survey, about 60 percent of the 140,000 veterans in state and federal prisons have a substance abuse problem, and about 25 percent said they were under the influence of a drug when they committed their offense.

Sheen appeared before Congress in April to defend drug courts at a briefing sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Recent reports issued by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Justice Policy Institute say that drug courts cherry pick the criminals most likely to succeed, thus inflating the courts’ rates of success. They also criticize the power given to drug court judges and point to the instances where offenders who participate in drug court, but don’t recover quickly, end up with longer prison terms than they would have if they had pleaded guilty and avoided drug court.

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