BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    ”



                                                                  AB 201
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   April 12, 2011
          Counsel:                Milena Nelson


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                  AB 201 (Butler) - As Introduced:  January 27, 2011
           

          SUMMARY  :   Authorizes superior courts to develop and implement 
          veterans courts.  Specifically, this bill:

          1)States that the objective of the veterans courts are:

             a)   Increase cooperation between the courts, criminal 
               justice, veterans, and substance abuse programs; 

             b)   Create a dedicated calendar or a locally developed 
               collaborative court-supervised veterans mental health 
               program or system that will lead to placement of as many 
               mentally ill offenders who are veterans of the United 
               States military, including those with post-traumatic stress 
               disorders, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, 
               substance abuse, or any mental health problem stemming from 
               United States military service, in community treatment, as 
               is feasible and consistent with public safety; 

             c)   Improve access to necessary services and support; 

             d)   Reduce recidivism; and, 

             e)   Reduce involvement of veterans in the criminal justice 
               system and time in jail by making mental health service for 
               veterans available in the least restrictive environment 
               possible while promoting public safety.

          2)States that the veterans court may have the following 
            characteristics:

             a)   Leadership by a superior court judicial officer assigned 
               by the presiding judge;

             b)   Enhanced accountability by combining judicial 
               supervision with rehabilitation service that are rigorously 








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               monitored and focused on recovery;

             c)   A problem solving focus; 

             d)   A team approach to decision-making:

             e)   Integration of social and treatment services;

             f)   Judicial supervision of the treatment process, as 
               appropriate;

             g)   Community outreach efforts; and, 

             h)   Direct interaction between defendant and judicial 
               officer.

          3)Suggests guidelines for creating veterans courts, including:

             a)   One stakeholder should be a veteran who is a criminal 
               justice client and has experience with mental illness;

             b)   The method by which the veterans court ensures that the 
               target population of defendants are identified and referred 
               to the veterans court;

             c)   The method for assessing defendants who are veterans for 
               serious mental illness and co-occurring disorders;

             d)   Eligibility criteria specifying what factors make the 
               defendant eligible to participate in the veterans court, 
               including service in the United States military, the 
               amenability of the defendant to treatment and the facts of 
               the case, as well as prior criminal history, United States 
               military service history, and mental health and substance 
               abuse treatment history;

             e)   The elements of the treatment and supervision programs;

             f)   Standards for continuing participation in, and 
               successful completion of, the veterans court program;

             g)   The need for all service providers and stakeholders to 
               receive initial and ongoing training from county 
               departments and community stakeholders with specialized 
               knowledge about veterans' treatment and service needs, such 








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               as the county health department, county veterans officers, 
               county drug and alcohol department, and Veterans 
               Administration partners, and the need to provide initial 
               and ongoing training for designated staff on the nature of 
               serious mental illness and on the treatment and supportive 
               services available in the community;

             h)   The process to ensure defendants will receive the 
               appropriate level of treatment series with emphasis on 
               maximizing federally funded services from the Veterans 
               Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as 
               well as the county and other local mental health and 
               substance abuse treatment services to the extent that 
               resources are available for that purpose, as specified;

             i)   The process for developing or modifying a treatment plan 
               for each defendant, based on a formal assessment of the 
               defendant's mental health, United States military service 
               history, and substance abuse treatment needs.  
               Participation in the veterans court shall require 
               defendants to complete the recommended treatment plan, and 
               comply with any other terms and conditions that optimizes 
               the likelihood that the defendant completes the program;

             j)   The process for referring cases to the veterans court; 
               and, 

             aa)  The defendant's voluntary entry into the veterans court, 
               and the process for explaining these rights to the 
               defendant.

          4)Suggests that each veterans court team, led by a judicial 
            officer include a judicial officer to preside over the court, 
            a prosecutor, a public defender, a county mental health 
            liaison, a substance abuse liaison, a county veterans' service 
            officer, a probation officer, and a Veterans Administration 
            social worker to assist the court with screening veterans 
            court candidates for eligibility and suitability in Veterans 
            Administration funded programs.  This team shall determine the 
            frequency of ongoing reviews of the progress of the offender 
            in community treatment in order to ensure the offender adheres 
            to the treatment plan as recommended, remains in treatment, 
            and completes treatment.

          5)States legislative intent that a veterans court judge use a 








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            variety of options for carrying out the goal to ensure 
            long-term public safety by maximizing the opportunities for 
            veterans with psychological war wounds to get timely and 
            appropriate treatment.  States legislative intent in enacting 
            this section to augment rather than replace other sections 
            within this code. The judicial officer has a variety of tools 
            available to reach these goals and shall exercise discretion 
            and use all tools available to ensure public safety and assist 
            defendants to successfully complete appropriate treatment for 
            the problems underlying their offenses. Where there are 
            statutory requirements for certain education or counseling 
            programs to be included in the terms of probation, the 
            components of these offense-specific counseling terms shall be 
            incorporated into the treatment programs that are designed to 
            treat the underlying psychological disorders rather than 
            required in lieu of the psychological treatments. This 
            holistic approach ensures that the priority underlying offense 
            is treated and that offense-specific education and counseling 
            aims are met.

           EXISTING LAW:  

          1)Provides that in the case of any person convicted of a 
            criminal offense who would otherwise be sentenced to county 
            jail or state prison and who alleges that he or she committed 
            the offense as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder 
            (PTSD), substance abuse, or psychological problems stemming 
            from service in a combat theater in the United States 
            military, the court shall, prior to sentencing, hold a hearing 
            to determine whether the defendant was a member of the 
            military forces of the United States who served in combat and 
            shall assess whether the defendant suffers from PTSD, 
            substance abuse, or psychological problems as a result of that 
            service.  ›Penal Code Section 1170.9(a).] 

          2)States that if the court concludes that a defendant convicted 
            of a criminal offense was a member of the military forces of 
            the United States suffering from PTSD, substance abuse, or 
            psychological problems stemming from service in a combat 
            theater and if the defendant is otherwise eligible for 
            probation and the court places the defendant on probation, the 
            court may order the defendant into a local; state; federal; or 
            private, non-profit treatment program for a period not to 
            exceed that which the defendant would have served in state 
            prison or county jail, provided the defendant agrees to 








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            participate in the program and the court determines that an 
            appropriate treatment program exists.  ›Penal Code Section 
            1170.9(b).] 

          3)Obligates counties to provide mental health treatment services 
            to members of the military forces of the United States 
            suffering from PTSD, substance abuse, or psychological 
            problems stemming from service in a combat theater only to the 
            extent that resources are available for that purpose.  If 
            mental health treatment services are ordered by the court, the 
            county mental health agency shall coordinate appropriate 
            referral of the defendant to the county veterans service 
            officer.  The county mental health agency shall not be 
            responsible for providing services outside its traditional 
            scope of services.  An order shall be made referring a 
            defendant to a county mental health agency only if that agency 
            has agreed to accept responsibility for the treatment of the 
            defendant.  ›Penal Code Section 1170.9(c).]

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "AB 201 will 
            promote the development of Veterans' Courts throughout the 
            state by strongly encouraging the Judicial Council to develop 
            practices and identify resources for the purposes of 
            facilitating veterans' courts in counties. In addition, this 
            bill strongly encourages the Judicial Council to develop a 
            compendium of resources to assist all collaborative courts to 
            understand the unique circumstances that affect veterans."

           2)Incarcerated Veterans  :  A study conducted by the University of 
            California, San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans 
            Affairs Medical Center has shown that approximately one-third 
            of veterans returning from Iraq received one or more mental 
            health or psychosocial diagnoses.  ›See Mental Illness Appears 
            Common among Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, 
            Science Daily (Mar. 13, 2007) 
             (as of Mar. 23, 2009).]  Another study 
            reported in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that 
            the rate of PTSD among veterans of the wars in Iraq and 
            Afghanistan increased in a linear manner with increased 
            exposure to combat.  ›See generally, Hoge, M.D., Combat Duty 








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            in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers 
            to Care (2004) 351 N. Engl. J. Med., pp. 13-22.]  Studies also 
            indicate that PTSD may result in drug and alcohol abuse by 
            veterans.  ›See Stress & Substance Abuse: A Special Report, 
            National Institute on Drug Abuse (Sept. 12, 2005) 
             (as of March 23, 2009).]

          Three-quarters of veterans in state prisons reported past drug 
            use and one-quarter reported being on drugs at the time of the 
            offense for which they were incarcerated.  ›Noonan & Mumola, 
            U.S. Dep't of Just., Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 
            2004 (2007) p. 5.]  ›See also Cotť, Military vet charged with 
            pharmacy holdups blames drug addiction, San Francisco 
            Chronicle (Sep. 3, 2007) (detailing the experience of an 
            Bosnia veteran who reports a prescription painkiller addiction 
            from a broken hip while in the military, and post-traumatic 
            stress disorder as a result of his combat experience, and the 
            substandard quality of military medical care, which he says 
            led to his arrest for the holdups of two pharmacies).]   

          Providing meaningful mental health treatment has been shown to 
            significantly reduce recidivism rates, with studies showing 
            decreases of over 20%.  ›Aos, Wash. State Inst. For Pub. 
            Pol'y, Evidence-Based Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison 
            Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates (2006).] 
             Likewise, studies have shown a reduction of more than 6% in 
            recidivism rates where meaningful chemical dependency services 
            are provided to prisoners.  (Id. at pp. 3, 19.)  Chemical 
            dependency treatment has also been shown to decrease, at least 
            in the short term, the probability of alcohol dependency by 
            15% and drug dependency by 22%.  (Id. at p.4.)

           3)Previous Legislation  :

             a)   AB 1925 (Salas), of the 2009-10 Legislative Session, 
               would have authorized superior courts to develop and 
               implement pre-guilty plea programs, deferred entry of 
               judgment programs, and/or post-guilty plea veterans court 
               programs.  AB 1925 was vetoed.  

             b)   AB 674 (Salas), Chapter 347, Statutes of 2010, allows a 
               court to order a defendant who suffers from sexual trauma, 
               traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse, or mental 
               health problems as a result of military service into a 








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               treatment program or veteran's court for a period not to 
               exceed that which the defendant would have served in state 
               prison or jail.   
              
             c)   AB 1013 (Block), of the 2009-10 Legislative Session, 
               would have required CDCR to conduct interdisciplinary 
               assessments of new inmates who are veterans and to develop 
               a specialized treatment protocol which includes PTSD.  AB 
               1013 was held in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

             d)   SB 851 (Steinberg), of the 2007-08 Legislative Session, 
               would have authorized superior courts to develop and 
               implement mental health courts, which may operate as a 
               pre-guilty plea program, a deferred entry of judgment 
               program, and/or a parolee mental health court program.  SB 
               851 was vetoed.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          California Psychological Association
          California Psychiatric Association
          California Public Defenders Association  

           Opposition 
           
          None
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Milena Nelson / PUB. S. / (916) 
          319-3744