The Minnesota Senate unanimously approved the Veterans Restorative Justice Act recently, which aims to divert at-risk veterans toward probation and social service programs instead of jail time when they commit certain less-severe crimes.

“It is unfair to ask our young men and women to sacrifice their mental health in service to our country without acknowledging that it may lead to personal issues down the road,” said District 16 Senator Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls. “This program offers a more helpful approach to dealing with veterans that are in trouble with the law without letting anyone off the hook. I was proud to support and vote for this bill.”

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 seven on the state’s sentencing grid, and the offense was committed due to one of several factors: service-connected sexual trauma, a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, a substance abuse disorder or a mental health condition.

The court will investigate all claims.

Veterans would be required to plead guilty and accept the conditions of the court including remaining sober and completing treatment programs.