BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





                                                                  AB 201

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          GOVERNOR'S VETO
          AB 201 (Butler)
          As Introduced  January 27, 2011
          2/3 vote


           PUBLIC SAFETY       6-0                                         


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          |     |Ammiano, Knight, Cedillo, |     |                          |
          |     |Hagman, Hill, Yamada      |     |                          |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
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          |Ayes:|                          |     |                          |
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          |ASSEMBLY:  |74-0 |(May 5, 2011)   |SENATE: |37-0 |(July 11,      |
          |           |     |                |        |     |2011)          |
          |           |     |                |        |     |               |
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          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 
               (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 










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               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 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;











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             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 U.S. military, the amenability of 
               the defendant to treatment and the facts of the case, as 
               well as prior criminal history, U.S. 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 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 










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               defendant's mental health, U.S. 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 
            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 










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            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.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown.  This bill is keyed non-fiscal by the 
          Legislative Counsel.

           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."

          Please see the policy committee analysis for a full discussion of 
          this bill.

           GOVERNOR'S VETO MESSAGE

                This measure would authorize superior courts to 
               establish dedicated programs to serve eligible 
               veterans of the United States military.  While the 
               provisions of this bill are well-intended, they create 
               a clear expectation that our courts - already 
               struggling with painful budget cuts - will establish a 
               new program.
               Given current budgetary constraints, the decision to 
               adopt this kind of program - something already within 
               the courts' authority - is better left to the sound 
               discretion of the judiciary.
           

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













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                                                                FN:  0001749