Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and the Minnesota Senate today 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 Veterans Restorative Justice Act, much like successful drug courts, will provide options for sentencing courts to create positive outcomes for veterans suffering with service-connected PTSD, TBI, substance abuse or mental health conditions. The Senate approved the same bill in the August special session as well, but it did not pass the House at that time.
“Veterans are willing to stand in harm’s way to protect our freedoms. We must stand tall with them when they come home,” said Sen. Nelson. “Rather than jail time for lower-level crimes, we have a duty to help them get treatment and get back on a path toward a better life. This is a victory for all Minnesota veterans.”
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.