§ 8-8-1.1 Veterans' treatment calendar.
(a) Findings and declarations. The general assembly finds and declares as follows:
(1) Veterans and active military, Reserve, and National Guard service members have provided, or are currently providing, an invaluable service to our country. In doing so, many return and suffer from mental health injuries, including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, acute stress, and other injuries that may affect brain function and may also suffer drug and alcohol dependency or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse problems.
(2) The call back to active duty status rate of Rhode Island's National Guard is the second highest in the entire United States with over ten thousand (10,000) unit deployments.
(3) The number of veterans living in Rhode Island who have served in the Gulf Wars is three (3) times higher than the national per-capita average and is expected to grow as troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan.
(4) While the vast majority of returning military do not have contact with the justice system and are well adjusted, contributing members of society, there exists a growing number of defendants appearing in the district court who have served in the United States armed forces and are involved in the criminal justice system as a result of the above-referenced diagnoses.
(5) As a grateful state, we must continue to honor the service of these participants by providing them an alternative to incarceration when feasible, permitting them instead to obtain proper treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems that have resulted from military service through a jail diversion program/treatment program that recognizes their special set of circumstances while at the same time providing accountability for their wrong doing and providing for the safety of the public.
(b) Declaration of policy. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state of Rhode Island to successfully rehabilitate participants by providing the tools and skills necessary to address their unique challenges and to develop the insight to reintegrate successfully into society and maintain a productive and law-abiding lifestyle within the community.
(c) Establishment. To accomplish this purpose in an effort to direct defendants who have served in the United States armed forces into a court program that integrates support and treatment plans with the judicial process that will result in potential jail diversion, possible reduction of charges, or alternatives in sentencing, there shall be established a separate calendar within the jurisdiction of the district court for hearing, trial and disposition of certain offenses.
(d) Veterans' treatment calendar. The chief judge of the district court shall create a veterans' treatment calendar in the district court and shall assign personnel to the extent warranted to exclusively hear and decide all criminal actions involving offenses committed by defendants accepted into the program, and the calendar shall be referred to as the "veterans' treatment court".
(e) Use of section.
Under no circumstances shall the defendant(s) be permitted to use this section as a basis for a dismissal of an action, as this section is enacted for the benefit and convenience of the district court.
(P.L. 2015, ch. 141, art. 15, § 2.)