PRESS CONFERENCE: Ramsey County Veterans Justice Initiative
DATE: Friday, December 6, 2013
TIME: 1:00 – 1:30 P.M.
LOCAL: Ramsey County Attorney’s Office Library
345 Wabasha Street North
Saint Paul, MN 55102
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What it the Veterans Justice Initiative?
The Ramsey County Veterans Justice Initiative is an evolving project that will identify and address lapses within the criminal justice system and related systems veterans may come into contact with once they have returned from service. The Initiative is a joint effort among city, county, state, federal and community resources to address the needs of veterans. A critical component of the Veterans Justice initiative is the Veterans Court Track which focuses on the legal needs of veterans while ensuring accountability and public safety.
What is the Veterans Court Track?
The Ramsey County Veterans Court Track is a voluntary court program for eligible veterans who have been charged with a crime (misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor and felony) in Ramsey County. The mission of the Ramsey County Veterans Court Track is to promote public safety through enhanced supervision and individual accountability. The purpose of the program is to assist and support veterans by creating a coordinated response through collaboration with the VA, community-based services, and the criminal justice system.
The Ramsey County Veterans Court Track is a collaborative effort involving the Ramsey County Attorney's Office; the VA; the Ramsey County Veterans Services Office; Ramsey County Community Corrections; the St. Paul City Attorney's Office; the Ramsey County Public Defender's Office; Project Remand; Ramsey County Human Services; the Second Judicial District; and other community partners.
Why a Veterans Court Track?
1. Protect public safety
2. Protect the lives of veterans and their families
3. Reduce criminal recidivism
4. Provide treatment and supervision to ensure sobriety and adequate health care
5. Improve access to VA benefits and medical care
6. Improve access to local resources to ensure adequate housing, employment, education, and stability
• Offenders charged with non-violent misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses or felony offenses. Domestics —violence related cases may be accepted by the St. Paul City Attorney's Office on a case-by-case basis.
• Must have served in the U.S. Armed Forces
• Have a treatable behavioral, mental, or chemical health problem,
• Be at least 18 years,
• Reside in Ramsey County,
• Have committed a qualifying offense in Ramsey County, and
• Have voluntarily agreed to enter VCT.
Depending on the level of the offense and the participant's criminal history, the participant will be admitted to the program through one of the following dispositional paths:
• Path # l:pre-charge or diversion.
• Path # 2: deferred prosecution, in which the defendant makes an admission of guilt, but the plea is not formally accepted and upon successful completion of the VCT program, charges will be dismissed. If the defendant is unwilling or unable to complete the program, the plea may be accepted and a sentence will follow.
• Path # 3: post-adjudication in which a guilty plea is entered, the person is sentenced and VCT is a condition of probation.
• Path # probation violation, for probationers facing a revocation hearing with potential execution of jail or prison sentence due to continued substance abuse or lack of cooperation.
The minimum program length for misdemeanors is 9 months and the minimum length for gross misdemeanors and felonies is one year.
Treatment and Supportive Services
• Participants who are eligible for VA Health Care will be connected to treatment to address mental health (e.g. post traumatic stress disorder), chemical dependency, or both.
• Participants who are ineligible for VA Health Care, or who choose not to use their VA benefits, will receive their treatment through community-based treatment organizations.
• All identified veterans, regardless of VA eligibility or whether they are accepted into VCT, will be referred to community veteran supportive services to address housing, employment, education, child care, civil legal needs, medical, dental, etc.
To graduate, the participant must have successfully completed all of the program requirements, including an aftercare plan; a minimum period of continued sobriety; a high school diploma or GED; employment or enrollment in school; be in a recovery support group; live in a sober, stable residence; and pay all program fees and restitution, or have a judgment entered. Participants may be terminated from the program for failure to comply with program requirements after all attempts have been made to improve the attendance and motivation without success. Termination may also occur if the client commits a drug sales or violent offense while in the program; is found to be in possession of a weapon; or is on warrant status for more than 60 days.
All participants will be assigned a volunteer veteran mentor. The role of the volunteer veteran mentor is to act as a coach, a guide, a role model, and advocate for the individuals he or she will work with. The mentor will encourage, guide, and support the participant as s/he progresses through the Veterans Court Track program. This will include listening to the participant's concerns, making general suggestions, assisting in determining where his/her needs may lie, and acting as a support for the participant at a time when s/he may feel alone in a way that only another veteran can understand.
Justice for Veterans: What benefits am I eligible for?
-- Services / Benefits through the VA or your local Veterans Services Office; and/or
-- The Ramsey County Veterans Court Track Program
To learn more, contact:
-- Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist: 612-313-3240
-- Ramsey County Veterans Justice Initiative: 651-266-VETS (8387) or www.RC-VETS.org
Justice for Veterans: Where do I turn for help?
-- Ramsey County Attorney's Office
Kim Bingham, Assistant Director of the Criminal Division
Kim.firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-266-3131
-- Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans
-- Ramsey County Veterans Services 651-266-2545 or www.co.ramsey.mn.us/vs
-- Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
-- Beyond the Yellow Ribbon www.BTYR.org
-- Veterans Court Track Resource List: For a comprehensive list of resources for Veterans in Ramsey, Hennepin, Dakota, Washington and Anoka Counties, please check this reference guide.