Nebraska could see special courts established to handle cases involving military veterans, based on the same concept that created drug courts.
The Unicameral has advanced LB 919 without opposition.
The bill would authorize the state Supreme Court to broaden the use of specialty courts in Nebraska, beginning with a court in Omaha to handle low-level offenses against veterans.
Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg sponsors LB 919. Williams tells colleagues during legislative floor debate the concept is modeled after drug courts.
“I’ve been asked the question at times with drug courts: are we being soft on these people, are we being soft on crime?”
Williams contends the specialty courts weren’t created to give those charged with drug crimes a break, but to offer a more effective and less costly alternative to incarceration. Those found eligible to enter drug courts must hold down a job and complete a two-year program under the supervision of a court.
A graduate of the program can avoid a prison sentence.
Williams says it is estimated drug courts have saved the state between $2.6 and 9.7 million.
“But, again, the most important part of the whole program is that those who graduate from specialty courts have a much better chance of returning to everyday life in a rehabilitated and productive manner,” according to Williams.
Some state senators say they support the move, but tell colleagues they should consider investing more state dollars into mental health services, which could keep veterans out of the justice system.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]