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Why this bill needs amending …

Public statement by
state Rep. Marion O’Neill

I am extremely disappointed that a compromise on the language of the Veterans Restorative Justice Act could not be arrived at. The chief author, Rep. Rob Ecklund, and the House majority were unwilling to compromise and incorporate necessary changes to the bill. Unfortunately, misrepresentations of the bill were persistent. Proponents of the bill have likened it to veterans courts; however, the bill in its current form is significantly different from veterans courts in troubling ways.

Unlike veterans courts, where successful completion of mental health or chemical dependency treatment is the foundation, this bill does not require the completion of treatment. In fact, treatment is not even required.
And unlike veterans courts, which does not accept defendants whose charges include violent crimes, this bill allows diversion for defendants charged with violent offenses, including felony domestic assault by strangulation, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, aggravated second-degree robbery and kidnapping.

My deep concern is that this bill does not balance the important goal of helping a defendant heal and change, with the concerns and safety of the victims. The bill does not require the prosecutor to consent to entering the defendant into a diversion program and the crime victim has no say in the decision. In addition to not being required to successfully complete treatment, the defendant also does not need to be in compliance with probation to have the charges and case dismissed and the record sealed from the public.

I have tried to work with the bill’s author and bill advocates, but they have been unwilling to incorporate any suggestions to improve the bill so that veterans who suffer from service-related mental or chemical health concerns get the treatment they need, while ensuring that crime victims are not further victimized. I am willing to continue working on this bill to get it right and hope advocates will demonstrate a willingness to do the same.”

Marion O’Neill is a state representative from Maple Lake. Her statement was issued after the House adjourned.

Read State Public Defender Bill Ward’s view here.

Read the original story here.

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