Skip to content

Madison County Veterans Court honors new set of successful graduates

‘Honestly? It saved my life’: Madison County

Madison County’s Veterans Court on Wednesday honored its newest group of graduates – three combat veterans who received praise from the court for using the program’s resources to get their lives back on track.

The goal of Madison County’s innovative Veterans Court is to provide a strategy of treatment, rather than jail, for veterans who have entered the criminal justice system and suffer from PTSD or psychological or substance abuse problems as a result of their service to their country.

Veterans Court graduate Grant S. said for him, the program was nothing short of a lifesaver.

“Honestly? It saved my life,” Grant said after the ceremony. “If it wasn’t for the program, I’d be in prison or dead. I owe these people a lot – I love these people.”

Circuit Judge Sarah Smith, herself a combat veteran, presided over the ceremony, thanking the graduates for their service and commending them for utilizing the tools offered through the Veterans Court program.

“Congratulations, I wish you all the success in the world,” the judge said.

The graduates each received a quilt from local representatives of Quilts of Valor, an organization that provides comforting, handmade quilts to deserving combat veterans.

Attendees at the graduation included Circuit Judge Kyle Napp, Associate Judge Martin Mengarelli, Probation Director R. Kevin McKee and State’s Attorney Thomas Haine.

Haine said, “The Veterans Court is designed to help individuals who’ve served their country get back on the right track. Typically, the participants in Veterans Court are otherwise good, honorable people who have made a mistake because they haven’t been given the resources they need to help them deal with underlying issues, such as post-traumatic stress. This program aims to give these veterans the tools they need to again become the respected, upstanding members of society that they’ve already demonstrated they can be.”

The court is a collaborative effort of the judges, the Veterans Administration, the Public Defender’s Office, the Probation Department and several community partners. The program has established a viable option for a select group of offenders whose needs are better met through treatment intervention rather than incarceration. The Veterans Court is a program through which lower-level offenders can get their charges dismissed if they successfully complete the program, which typically involves months of treatment, drug-testing, counseling and adherence to any guidelines set by the court.

Deputy Chief Probation Officer Mike Wilkinson, who has served the Veterans Court since it began in 2009, said participants include veterans who are trying to cope with post-traumatic stress, as well as ones who have become addicted to painkillers or try to self-medicate after suffering injuries.

Roughly 230 military veterans have successfully completed the Madison County Veterans Court since its inception. The program typically has about 35 participants at any given time.

Additional information about the Madison County Veterans Court is available through Madison County Probation & Court Services at 157 N. Main Street, Suite 312, Edwardsville, IL 62025 or by calling (618) 296-6255.

Photos courtesy of Madison County:

1: State’s Attorney Thomas Haine and Judge Sarah Smith admire the Quilt of Valor presented to Grant S., a graduate of the Veterans Court.

2: Participants in the Veterans Court graduation ceremony pose for a photo with Judge Sarah Smith and State’s Attorney Thomas Haine.

Leave a Comment