Left to right: President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Timothy Knight; Retired Lecturer and U.S. Army veteran, Stan McCracken; City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor, Juan Salgado; University of Chicago President, Paul Alivisatos; Medical Center Director, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Rick Ament; Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy Evans; University of Chicago Provost, Ka Yee Lee; Criminal Court Judge and U.S. Marine Reserve Lieutenant Colonel (retired), William Hooks; and Director for OMAC, Terrell Odom.
The Office for Military-Affiliated Communities (OMAC) has partnered with the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Cook County Public Defender’s Office, the Cook County State’s Attorney Office, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation on the Office for Military-Affiliated Communities' Veterans Restorative Justice Project (OMAC-VRJP). The OMAC-VRJP will coordinate efforts with its partners and other Robert R. McCormick grantees to provide tailored, all-inclusive support for veterans who have criminal cases before the VTC. Through University of Chicago professional and academic units (Law, Harris, SSD, Booth, and Crown Family), OMAC and its partners will provide in-depth qualitative research, VA benefit assistance, policy recommendations, workforce development and readiness training, and assessment of services needed to fully re-integrate these veterans into society via summer internships and academic year case work.
The VTC is a probationary court designed for US veterans who have been arrested in Cook County and charged with non-violent felony and misdemeanor offenses to facilitate their access to comprehensive medical, substance abuse, mental health treatment and social services, in an environment that will assist them to overcome issues of drug dependence, mental illness, homelessness, and unemployment. A handbook on participation and rules of the VTC can be found here.
In addition to providing research and supportive services to participants in the VTC, one of our goals is to address benefit and career exploration with the veterans through partners and offerings at City Colleges of Chicago. Career exploration and workforce development training will lead to employment in “high demand” occupational specialties.
Far too often, military-affiliated individuals, specifically veterans, become victims to the criminal justice system, and this can be exacerbated by socio-economic barriers, underlying conditions, and undiagnosed service-related injuries that further hinder them from re-integrating into society. In many cases, an undiagnosed injury/illness is the primary reason for their incarceration or offense. For courts to better serve military-affiliated persons in the criminal justice system and reduce recidivism, there should be more examination of these unintentional barriers, development of strategies to address them, and better incorporation of resources that holistically support the veteran, their family, and their career goals.