For Immediate ReleaseJanuary 24, 2014
Many ex-military defendants eligible for services, alternative sentences
San Rafael, CA – Military veterans who get tangled in the legal system are being connected to services through a new effort coordinated by several County of Marin departments.
Sean Stephens, the County’s Veterans Services Officer, said some accused veterans are entitled to alternatives to incarceration under state law. He has worked with Deputy District Attorney A.J. Brady and Chief Deputy Public Defender David Brown to create a one-month survey of veterans filtering through the court system.
California Penal Code 1170.9 helps protect veterans who might have been exposed to post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse or mental health problems during or after their military service.
“We are looking into helping more veterans who are in the court system connect with Veterans Administration services as well as those who may be eligible to find legal relief,” Stephens said. “The survey could really help them, but they need to know about it.”
For about a year, members of the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, Superior Court, the Probation Department, Health and Human Services and veterans organizations have collaborated to align the criminal justice system with various veterans sentencing programs. The survey and the data to be gathered, specifically the number of affected veterans, is critical to determining the size and nature of possible programmatic changes.
For now, the focus is on counting the veterans who are willing to self-identify as serving in the military either to a judge, an attorney or a sheriff’s deputy. Fliers encouraging veterans to speak up about their past duty are posted in the lobbies of the County courthouse, the Public Defender’s Office and the Marin County Jail. The jail is tracking veterans during the booking process and the Public Defender’s Office is tracking through its case statistics.
“The whole idea is to get them the help they need and deserve,” Stephens said.
Stephens said a successful program would save money for the County and room at the County Jail because off-site rehabilitation programs for veterans would be paid with federal dollars.
“People who served our country deserve this,” Brown said.
Sean StephensVeterans Services OfficerHealth and Human Services
10 N. San Pedro Rd.Suite 1010San Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-6193Email: Sean StephensVeterans Services website