Governor Signs Jackson Bill To Help Steer Eligible Californians to Veterans Treatment Courts

September 27, 2014

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a bill by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to ensure that current and former members of the military in the criminal justice system know they may be eligible for treatment programs rather than jail time.
 
SB 1110 would require that courts inform defendants at arraignment, the first stage in the court process, that if they have served or are serving in the military, and if they have not committed serious crimes, they may be eligible for rigorous treatment programs to address substance abuse issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and other conditions resulting from their time in combat.
 
California currently has Veterans Treatment Courts in 20 counties, including Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. These special courts combine highly demanding treatment programs and accountability with the goal of breaking the cycle of criminal behavior and having the defendant re-enter the community with the skills to be a law-abiding citizen.
 
“Veterans Treatment Courts offer hope and a second chance to those who have served our country,” said Jackson. “They are a cost-effective and rigorous alternative to incarceration that seeks to address and heal underlying challenges that many returning from combat are facing as they readjust to civilian life. And yet we are finding that far too few Californians know they may be eligible for these alternative programs. This bill will help educate veterans as well as their attorneys that these programs are a viable option that can save taxpayer money, prevent unnecessary jail time, and provide a path to recovery.”
 
“We are extremely pleased that the Governor has signed this bill into law,” said Pete Conaty, a retired army officer and governmental advocate for veterans groups. “This bill will help steer Californians into Veterans Treatment Courts, which we know are making a tremendous difference in the lives of those who have been in combat, and in their communities as a whole.”
 
According to a 2014 report of the San Diego Veterans Treatment Review Court Pilot Program, most veterans that become involved in the criminal justice system are not being identified as veterans, and most veterans suffer more than one post-deployment conviction before they have a case in which they are identified as a military veteran.
 
Under SB 1110, disclosure of military status by a defendant would be voluntary. If the defendant acknowledges military service, a form shall be filed by the defendant stating their service, and defense and prosecuting attorneys shall be notified.
 
The bill had the support of numerous veterans groups, including AMVETS and the Vietnam Veterans of America, who sponsored the bill. The bill was also supported by the American Legion, the California Association of County Veterans Services Officers, the California State Commanders Veterans Council, the Military Officers Association of America, and the VFW.
 
Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

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Contact: Lisa Gardiner (916) 202-3857 (cell) or lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov