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Veterans Restorative Justice Act provides options

8/18/2021 5:45:00 PM

After more than two years of effort from a huge group of Veterans, advocates, stakeholders, legislators and their staff, the Veterans Restorative Justice Act has become law.

“This is a win for our State’s Veterans,” said MDVA Commissioner Larry Herke at an August 10 press conference and ceremonial bill signing event. “The success of this effort demonstrates the positive outcome of the three branches of government working together to support Minnesota Veterans.”

Some military experiences can create a long-lasting impact on a Veteran’s successful reintegration into society after discharge. There can be a connection between a Veteran’s legal troubles and struggles with employment, homelessness or stable housing, mental health issues and even suicide.

The Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA) provides guidance to Minnesota courts on sentencing a justice-involved Veteran. It does not create Veterans Treatment Courts in every county or jurisdiction. However, it does create a post-plea sentencing options for eligible Veterans in all courts throughout the state. This will allow courts to offer access to programs and treatment for a service-related condition which lead or contributed to a criminal offense, and opportunities to collaborate with a County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to maximize benefits and services available to the Veteran.

Army Veteran Jeff Johnson attended the press conference and shared: “I stand before you probably the most fortunate Veteran in the State.” Struggling with PTSD and mental health issues, Johnson had run ins with the law. Instead of going to jail, he got a second chance by participating in a special Veterans Court program offering treatment and support services.

While some people might describe the Veterans Court program as “the easy way out,” Governor Tim Walz countered: “…Veterans Court is much harder work. It’s much more intensive and because of that, it’s much more effective.”

Indeed, for Veteran Jeff Johnson, he says: “This is not a place where a Veteran gets his or her life back. They get a new life, a life that is productive and satisfying.”

View the KSTP-TV story here.

Veterans Restorative Justice Act signing

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