Senator Miller: Senate passes Veterans Restorative Justice bill to help veterans with mental health and other struggles

Greetings from the district,

Last week, I traveled up to St. Paul as members of the Minnesota Legislature reconvened for the fourth special session of the summer. Like the previous three, this special session was required when the governor decided to extend his emergency powers for an additional 30 days.

Our primary order of business was a bill to help Minnesota veterans. The Senate unanimously passed 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.

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.

You might remember that the Senate also unanimously passed this bill during the August special session, but the House did not take the bill up before adjourning. I was hopeful that this month would be different given the overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill, but the House did not take it up last week. I’m committed to continuing to work on this important legislation for our veterans.

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