By Attorney Brian Scanlon
On April 25, 2020, the America’s Heroes Group radio show welcomed Lori Roper, Attorney Supervisor of Veterans Treatment Court for the Public Defender’s Office, and Brian Scanlon, Assistant Public Defender. They were joined by Carmen Ramirez and Melissa Montalvo from the Jesse Brown VA’s Veterans Justice Program. The roundtable discussion centered on resources and treatment services available to veterans who enter the criminal system.
Veterans Treatment Courts (VTC) is the fastest growing treatment court in the USA. VTC was established to divert veterans involved in the criminal justice system from incarceration into treatment and a cleaner life. The goal is to honor the veterans’ service to the country and reduce the recidivism rate of veterans.
Veterans Treatment Court operates separately from the VA but is endorsed by the VA through its Veterans Justice Program which contains two focus areas.
The Health Care for Re-Entry Veteran Program assists veterans with determining their eligibility for VA services and enrolling eligible veterans for care at their nearest VA health care facility prior to their release from prison.
The VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach is the second focus area which works to collaborate with local justice system partners to identify veterans who enter the criminal system and are in need of treatment services.
In Cook County, a veteran charged with a non-violent criminal case qualifies for Veterans Treatment Court (VTC). VTC consists of a courtroom run by Judge William Hooks (Marine Corps veteran), VA staff who conduct eligibility for benefits, probation officers who coordinate services with the VA, Assistant States Attorney, and Assistant Public Defender who handle legal matters upon entry into VTC.
The goal of Veterans Treatment Court is the holistic treatment of the veteran.
As a group, VTC staff focuses on stabilizing any individual in need with drug or mental health counseling. The veteran has an option of housing benefits through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Once treatment is complete and the Veteran has satisfied the designated probation period, the Assistant States Attorney and the Assistant Public Defender enter orders dismissing the charges and vacating the conviction.
The veteran can then expunge his or her record and return to society with charges dropped and treatment complete.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the VA’s Veterans Justice Program offers virtual groups, telehealth appointments for the veteran and they continue to coordinate with Veterans Treatment Court. The goal is to keep the holistic treatment of the veteran a priority.
For more information on Veterans Treatment Court, contact Brian Scanlon at 773-674-3217. For details on VA’s Veterans Justice Program, contact Melissa Montalvo at 312-569-6546 or [email protected].