BILL ANALYSIS Ó ------------------------------------------------------------ |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE | AB 201| |Office of Senate Floor Analyses | | |1020 N Street, Suite 524 | | |(916) 651-1520 Fax: (916) | | |327-4478 | | ------------------------------------------------------------ THIRD READING Bill No: AB 201 Author: Butler (D) Amended: As introduced Vote: 21 SENATE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE : 7-0, 06/14/11 AYES: Correa, Cannella, Berryhill, Negrete McLeod, Rubio, Runner, Lieu NO VOTE RECORDED: Calderon SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE : 7-0, 06/28/11 AYES: Hancock, Anderson, Calderon, Harman, Liu, Price, Steinberg ASSEMBLY FLOOR : 74-0, 05/05/11 - See last page for vote SUBJECT : Veterans courts SOURCE : Author DIGEST : This bill authorizes superior courts to develop and implement veterans courts. This bill establishes standards and procedures for veterans courts and specifies that county participation in the veterans' courts program is voluntary. ANALYSIS : Existing law: 1.Provides that in the case of any person convicted of a criminal offense who would otherwise be sentenced to CONTINUED AB 201 Page 2 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. 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 participate in the program and the court determines that an appropriate treatment program exists. 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. This bill: 1.States that the objective of the veterans courts are: AB 201 Page 3 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 (U.S.) 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. 1.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 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, AB 201 Page 4 H. Direct interaction between defendant and judicial officer. 1.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 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 AB 201 Page 5 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. 1.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. 2.States legislative intent that a veterans court judge use a variety of options for carrying out the goal to ensure AB 201 Page 6 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. Background For the last several years, severe overcrowding in California's prisons has been the focus of evolving and expensive litigation. As these cases have progressed, prison conditions have continued to be assailed, and the scrutiny of the federal courts over California's prisons has intensified. On June 30, 2005, in a class action lawsuit filed four years earlier, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California established a Receivership to take control of the delivery of medical services to all California state prisoners confined by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In December of 2006, plaintiffs in two federal lawsuits against CDCR sought a court-ordered limit on the prison population pursuant to the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act. On January 12, 2010, a three-judge federal panel issued an order requiring California to reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of design capacity, a reduction at that time of roughly 40,000 inmates, within two years. The court stayed implementation of its ruling pending the AB 201 Page 7 state's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 23, 2011, the United States Supreme Court upheld the decision of the three-judge panel in its entirety, giving California two years from the date of its ruling to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity, subject to the right of the state to seek modifications in appropriate circumstances.
In response to the unresolved prison capacity crisis, in early 2007 the Senate Committee on Public Safety began holding legislative proposals which could further exacerbate prison overcrowding through new or expanded felony prosecutions. Comments 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." FISCAL EFFECT : Appropriation: No Fiscal Com.: No Local: No SUPPORT : (Verified 6/28/11) American Legion, Department of California AMVETS, Department of California California Association of County Veterans Service Officers California Attorneys for Criminal Justice California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies California Mental Health Directors Association California Psychiatric Association California Psychological Association California Public Defenders Association California State Commanders Veterans Council Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office Mental Health Association in California AB 201 Page 8 Military Officers Association of America, California Council of Chapters National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter State Independent Living Council Student Veterans of California Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Department of California Vietnam Veterans of America, California State Council ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT : The State Independent Living Council supports this bill stating: Over the past decade the number of mentally ill veterans has greatly increased throughout the United States and the numbers continue to increase. Approximately 20% of returning forces are likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and additionally 320,000 returning veterans may have traumatic brain injuries. In addition, SILC has found that veterans with disabilities, specifically those with traumatic brain injuries, are an underserved and underrepresented group in California. With these findings it is important that issues that face returning veterans are addressed. The state authorizing the superior courts to develop a veterans' court with the objective of a court-supervised veteran's mental health program is a step in the right direction. The program would allow for treatment instead of punishment, for an illness/injury that these brave men and women obtained in service of our country. The Council considers this bill to be an important step in ensuring that we continue to support our veterans. ASSEMBLY FLOOR : 74-0, 05/05/11 AYES: Achadjian, Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Beall, Bill Berryhill, Block, Blumenfield, Bonilla, Bradford, Brownley, Buchanan, Butler, Charles Calderon, Campos, Carter, Cedillo, Chesbro, Conway, Cook, Davis, Dickinson, Donnelly, Eng, Feuer, Fletcher, Fong, Fuentes, Galgiani, Gatto, Gordon, Grove, Hagman, Halderman, Hall, Harkey, AB 201 Page 9 Hayashi, Roger Hernández, Hill, Huber, Hueso, Huffman, Jeffries, Knight, Lara, Logue, Bonnie Lowenthal, Ma, Mansoor, Mendoza, Miller, Mitchell, Monning, Morrell, Nestande, Norby, Olsen, Pan, Perea, V. Manuel Pérez, Portantino, Silva, Skinner, Smyth, Solorio, Swanson, Torres, Valadao, Wagner, Wieckowski, Williams, Yamada, John A. Pérez NO VOTE RECORDED: Furutani, Garrick, Gorell, Jones, Nielsen, Vacancy RM:nl 6/29/11 Senate Floor Analyses SUPPORT/OPPOSITION: SEE ABOVE **** END ****