The Minnesota Senate today unanimously approved The Veterans Restorative Justice Act, which aims to divert at-risk veterans toward probation and social service programs instead of jail time when they commit certain less-severe crimes. The Senate approved the same bill in the August special session as well, but it did not pass the House at that time.
“So many veterans experienced trauma during their service – trauma that stayed with them for a long time and leads to a litany of other battles,” said Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes), the bill’s author. “It is our duty to help these veterans receive treatment instead of incarceration when they commit crimes because of struggles they are facing due to their service. It’s the right thing to do.”
Several counties already have veterans treatment courts that help veterans receive treatment for their less severe crimes instead of prison. The Veterans Restorative Justice Act is not a mandate; it simply provides a statutory set of guidelines for veterans’ treatment in courts.
The bill recommends veterans be eligible for the diversionary program if their offense is below a severity level 7 on the state’s sentencing grid, and that they swear that the offense was committed due to one of several factors: service-connected sexual trauma, a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, a substance abuse disorder, or mental health condition. The court will investigate all claims. Veterans would be required to plead guilty and accept conditions of the court, including remaining sober and completing a treatment program.