On October 26, the America’s Heroes Group show on WVON hosted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx as a guest. Foxx was on the show to discuss Veterans Treatment Court, and other diversionary and treatment programs offered by her office.
Veteran’s Treatment Courts have been established nationwide in recent years. In Illinois, veteran treatment courts are required in every judicial circuit.
These courts address a myriad of issues: mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, and issues specific to veterans.
The program is designed for those who have served in the U.S. military and who have become involved in the criminal justice system. Those who participate in the program are reviewed by the State’s Attorney’s office to determine if their criminal background meets eligibility requirements.
If agreed upon by the prosecutor and defendant, and approved by the court, veterans are deemed eligible for enrollment in the program. A veteran must plead guilty to his or her case to be accepted into veteran’s court.
Foxx, who heads the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country acknowledges the many benefits of Veterans Court and notes that her office works with a number of agencies and organizations assisting veterans. Working alongside her office she says, are representatives from the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and the Circuit Court of Cook County.
The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs also partner with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the aforementioned agencies, as do community and other support agencies.
The courts allow honorably discharged veterans to plead guilty to a crime in exchange for an intensive probation sentence. The sentence includes court visits and mental health or substance abuse treatment.
During the show Foxx explained how her office offers alternatives to people who are charged with nonviolent felonies.
The goal of these courts is to help the defendants find a pathway to sobriety and/or how to deal with their mental health issues.
Foxx discussed how the courts have been instrumental in changing the lives of participants. Many go on to become productive members of society and some participants give back by becoming mentors and speakers, encouraging other participants.
The program culminates in a graduation ceremony, Foxx explained, where participants invite their families and friends to celebrate their cases being dismissed. Participants receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program.
Many participants go on to have their cases expunged or sealed. This allows the participant the ability to apply for jobs or go to school without fear of having the case be a barrier to their success.