BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






                      SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
                              LOU CORREA, CHAIRMAN
                                             


          Bill No:        AB 201
          Author:         Butler
          Version:        As Introduced 
          Hearing Date:   June 14, 2011
          Fiscal:         No
          Consultant:     Donald E. Wilson




                                 SUBJECT OF BILL  
          Veterans courts  
           
                                   PROPOSED LAW  
           
           1.  Allow veterans' courts to be established statewide
           

                          EXISTING LAW AND BACKGROUND  
          
             1.   Many veterans who returned home from Vietnam were 
               found on skid rows across America a decade later and 
               then diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder 
               (PTSD).

             2.   The lack of diagnosis and treatment for PTSD 
               condemned many to a life most would choose not to 
               follow.  Many have committed suicide or gotten into 
               trouble with the law.

             3.   Veterans returning home now not only have PTSD but 
               also traumatic brain injury (TBI) and both have the 
               potential to put veterans who are returning home now 
               in the same position as many of those who returned 
               from Vietnam.  Veterans' advocates have vowed to not 
               let the same thing happen to this generation.

             4.   In 2000 California Proposition 36 created 
               diversionary courts for drug offenders in order to 
               seek alternative treatments with alternative treatment 
               advocates declaring victory.  










             5.   Veterans returning home now that are getting in 
               legal trouble or facing substance abuse problems are 
               usually those suffering from PTSD and/or TBI and 
               veterans advocates are hoping that by using 
               diversionary courts and treating the root cause rather 
               than the criminal symptom that something can be done 
               to prevent a lost and wounded generation of veterans. 

             6.   Earlier this year the Army announced that the 
               number of soldiers lost to suicide since 9/11 had 
               surpassed those lost in Afghanistan. 

             7.   Counties such as Orange, San Diego, and Santa Clara 
               have pilot veteran court programs.

             8.   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 preguilty plea program, a deferred entry 
               of judgment program, and/or a parolee mental health 
               court program.  SB 851 was vetoed.  

               In his veto message, the Governor stated:

                         "Although the provisions of this bill are to 
               be implemented contingent upon the availability of 
               funds, this bill would place a tremendous cost 
               pressure on the General Fund to increase mental health 
               services provided to inmates and parolees.  The 
               California Department of Corrections and 
               Rehabilitation estimates annual costs for the staff 
               necessary to implement this bill would exceed $14 
               million annually.

                "While I agree that more efforts need to be made to 
               ensure that prisoners with mental health issues 
               receive appropriate treatment, this bill allows people 
               who have committed crimes to avoid punishment 
               completely because of a mental health issue.  This 
               bill would also enable a defendant to not enter a plea 
               or make an admission of guilt.

               "The mental health courts model specified in this bill 

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               is an important component of public safety and for 
               managing our criminal justice system and I hope that 
               the author will continue to work on mental health 
               issues, especially as it relates to mentally ill 
               criminal offenders so that California             can 
               reduce recidivism rates and provide proper treatment 
               for healthier citizens."

                                         
                                    COMMENT  
          
             1.   According to the author's office "veterans' courts 
               are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the 
               drug court model to serve veterans struggling with 
               addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring 
               disorders.  They promote sobriety, recovery, and 
               stability?"

             2.   This committee has been working on a code rewrite 
               with one of the purposes being to create veterans' 
               courts.  In the future this committee will seek to 
               place this language in the Military and Veterans' 
               Code.



                                     SUPPORT  
          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
          California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies
          California Mental Health Directors Association
          California Psychological Association
          California State Commanders Veterans Council
          Commissioner of Veteran's Affairs City and County of San 
          Francisco
          Mental Health Association in California
          Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council
          VFW, Department of California

                                      OPPOSE  
          
          None received




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