Madison County’s Veterans Treatment Court: A model program
The Madison County, Illinois Veterans Treatment Court (“Vet Court”) was established in March of 2009 under the leadership of the Honorable Judge Charles V. Romani, a veteran of the United States Army and the Vietnam War. Continuing the vision of the Honorable Judge Robert Russell, who founded the first Veterans Treatment Court in Buffalo, New York in 2008, Judge Romani recognized the many benefits of Vet Court and saw the need for such a court in Madison County. I have had the honor of presiding over the Court since Judge Romani’s retirement in November of 2012. Under the guidance of the Vet Court, hundreds of veterans have been assisted over the past eight and a half years. The court is thriving, continues to expand its resources and treatment options, and currently has 45 veterans enrolled.
The Mission of the Madison County Veterans Treatment Court is to ensure that justice-involved veterans are connected to the benefits and treatment they earned through their military service and to divert them from the traditional criminal justice system. The program provides support and rehabilitation through comprehensive substance abuse and/or mental health treatment opportunities, educational programs, peer support, as well as a variety of other services, all while being judicially monitored.
The court has a dedicated interdisciplinary team assigned to it including a Veterans Court Judge, Prosecutor, Public Defender, Probation Officer, Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, and a Problem Solving Courts Coordinator. This team works together to provide support and guidance to all of the courts participants while providing accurate and real time information to the Veterans Court Judge at each status hearing.
Vet Court is both a pre and post-adjudicatory Problem Solving Court program that targets veterans in both felony and misdemeanor court who have substance abuse or mental health disorders. It is a four-phase highly structured program that consists of two separate and defined tracks. The high-risk track accommodates veterans who are at a higher risk to reoffend, is a minimum of 18 months in duration, and incorporates a more intensive level of supervision and judicial monitoring. The low-risk track which accommodates veterans who are at a lower risk to reoffend, is a minimum of 12 months in duration and incorporates a lower level of supervision and judicial monitoring. Successful completion of all phase requirements is mandatory in both tracks before a veteran can graduate from the program.
All participants must have an honorable, or general under honorable conditions, discharge from the United States Armed Forces, must demonstrate a willingness to participate fully in the program, and must meet all of the court’s eligibility requirements to be considered for placement. Referrals to the court can be made by anyone by contacting the Madison County Problem Solving Courts Office located in the Madison County Criminal Courts Building.