Ramsey County begins Veterans Justice Initiative
Helping veterans to not engage in criminal activity
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced on Jan. 15 a collaborative enterprise to create a criminal justice response to help veterans who are getting into trouble with the law. Choi announced his plans as part of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners Policy Agenda Meeting.
The Veterans Justice Initiative enables the criminal justice system to address the issue of veterans who have suffered collateral consequences due to their military service and therefore find themselves in trouble with the law. The focus will be on public safety, accountability, identification of needs, and access to appropriate resources to help restore vets to a law abiding and healthy life.
“This is a win-win. We can save money by helping veterans to not engage in the revolving door of criminal activity, as well as giving them supervision and resources to get their lives back on track,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt.
Joining County Attorney Choi at the Board meeting were 2nd District Chief Judge Teresa Warner, Ramsey County Veteran Services Director Maria Wetherall, Chief Public Defender Patrick Kittredge, President/CEO of Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans Corrections Kathleen Vitalis, director of Veterans Employed Through Legal Advocacy Work Sara Sommarstrom, Ramsey County Community Corrections Director Carol Pender Roberts, Ramsey County Community Human Services Director Monty Martin and Brockton Hunter, criminal defense attorney and veterans’ advocate.
“I am encouraged by the support of our county commissioners and the participation of our many partners to enhance public safety and justice to focus on the unique needs of those who have so ably served our country, but experience challenges returning to their lives back home,” said Choi. “Too often, PTSD and depression lead to drug and alcohol abuse as well as other bad choices that lead to arrest and time in the criminal justice system.”
Veterans suffer from high rates of PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and disabling physical and mental injuries. These conditions may impede their ability to secure jobs, housing and health care. With little or no financial stability, military families face a foreclosure rate four times the national average. Veterans make up 20 percent of the homeless population, with male veterans making up to one-third of the male homeless population. Faced with these stressors, veterans often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. These collateral consequences from their service to their country can result in veterans engaging in criminal behavior.
“We are committed to working together to ensure we’re doing everything we can to dignify our veterans’ service to this country and improve our service to them despite the limited resources in all of our budgets,” said Director of Ramsey County Veteran Services Maria Wetherall.
This news release was provided by the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney.