Veterans treatment courts are coming to Illinois in 2018

People who have served in the military often have a variety of challenges when they return to civilian life. Many of these can be difficult to overcome, but there is very little help for these individuals.

One area where veterans sometimes fall through the cracks is the criminal justice system. Far too many service men and women are shuttled through a harsh system that doesn’t address the underlying issues that might have contributed to their criminal activities.

Illinois is taking action to help vets

Illinois lawmakers passed a law that is meant to help veterans of the armed forces. Starting on January 1, 2018, the 23 judicial courts in the state will have to establish veterans treatment courts. These courts are loosely modeled after drug courts in that they provide targeted help and monitoring to a specific group of participants.

The veterans court in Illinois will cater to qualifying individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder. In order to participate, a veteran’s charges must be non-violent. It is expected that drug charges will comprise a good portion of charges addressed in the program.

Components of a veterans treatment court

To be clear, veterans treatment court isn’t an easy answer for the defendants. Instead, it is a very rigorous program that tries to address multiple facets in a veteran’s life. The participants have to undergo appropriate treatment programs, meet with counselors, and answer to the court. They also have to meet with a probation officer and will have periodic meetings with their attorney. This isn’t going to address every problem in the criminal justice system that veterans face, but it is a good start.

The veterans court program can address various challenges that might lead the former service member to a life of crime. One program in another state provides help with transportation, job training and placement, mental health and medical treatment, and housing. The use of mentors in the program can also help veterans since they will have someone who understands what they’ve been through and what they are going through now.

Potential drawbacks

These programs might be ineffective, especially when appropriate working relationships aren’t established. Some people have worried about the cost of the programs, but there aren’t going to be any costs that are passed along to taxpayers. Instead, the costs of the program are covered by court fees.

For veterans, this development might give them the boost they need to live out their days in peace. It is almost like having a structured second chance to adjust to civilian life.