MARION, Ill. — The First Judicial Circuit has started a Drug and Veterans court, meant to prevent re-incarceration by giving offenders the treatment they need.
Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti says the program is for non-violent offenders "primarily looking at drug possession, retail theft, possibly burglary." He adds that it’s also for veterans who need treatment, "We’re looking at people who may come back with combat related illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or something like that."
The program is a collaboration between the First Judicial Circuit, Williamson County State’s Attorney, Marion VA, as well as Centerstone and the Gateway Foundation, among others.
Judge Carey Gill will preside over the cases, starting with ten participants, and meet with them weekly. "It’s a very high-intensity program and it really is an alternative to incarceration," she says.
During the 18-24 months, participants will also check in with a probation officer and have random drug tests three times a week. They must also attend services provided by Gateway and Centerstone.
"They’ll sometimes be providing mental health services and behavioral therapy," Gill explains. "They often need education or job training, so that they can have employment and be a contributing member to the work force."
American Legion member Tom Harness hopes the new court will prevent mistakes from ruining the lives of veterans, "When you get out of the military you feel disconnected from a lot of the community, from the people, and sometimes you turn to bad choices."
Gill and Zanotti say the program will get participants back to being productive members of society. The Drug and Veterans court will first serve Williamson County, but the plan is to expand over the next several months to serve all the counties in the First Judicial Circuit.