Topeka — Judges would be able to reduce sentences for defendants who are combat veterans and have post-traumatic stress disorder, under a bill being considered by the Kansas Legislature.
The measure is being pushed by state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, who said his aim is to assist returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who become entangled in the criminal justice system to get the help they may need if they are suffering from PTSD.
“They are returning from very stressful situations,” Sloan said. “If they get in trouble, maybe they don’t need to go to prison, but they need to get services.”
The measure, House Bill 2430, will be heard in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee on Tuesday.
The bill would give a judge the discretion to allow a departure from sentencing guidelines if the defendant has been diagnosed with PTSD and served in combat zones.
Committee Chairwoman Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, said several states are trying ways to connect returning veterans who run afoul of the law with needed health and social services.
She said the proposals aren’t intended to excuse unlawful behavior but to get at the root of the problem and try to help
Sloan said he got the idea for the bill after discussions with Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the Kansas adjutant general.
Recent reports have indicated that as many 300,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which is nearly 20 percent of returning forces, are likely to suffer PTSD or major depression.