Sen. Newman and Minnesota Senate again approve bill to help veterans with PTSD, trauma, or mental health struggles receive treatment instead of criminal sentences

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.

“We all have heard the tragic stories of veterans who have found themselves in trouble with the law due to emotional, physical, or mental health struggles,” said Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson). “We also know that these issues may never have materialized in the first place but for their service. Rather than throwing them in prison, we have a duty to make sure they get the treatment they need. This provides an important pathway to get them back on the right track.”

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.

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