The Minnesota Senate passed legislation Wednesday providing alternative pathways for veterans who face criminal sentences, a move that will help ensure positive outcomes for those struggling to return to civilian life.
“Many of our veterans return to civilian life carrying traumatic experiences that manifest in post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues, which can lead to them on a path towards criminal offenses,” said Senator Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids), ranking DFL lead on the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee. “Instead of jail time, specialized veterans sentencing guidelines can provide the treatment and recovery services that address these issues, reducing recidivism while helping them get on their feet and stay out of the criminal justice system.”
While Minnesota has several veterans’ courts, not all of the existing courts operate in the same manner. This leads to disparate treatment of veterans based solely on where they live or which county they committed the crime. This new legislation will provide uniform guidelines statewide that consider service-related issues and suggest alternatives to criminal sentencing, including treatment and recovery services.
The bill is supported by the Veterans Defense Project, the Minnesota VFW, the American Legion, and other veterans groups.