Veterans Restorative Justice Project
The Veterans Treatment Court in Cook County, Illinois, is a specialized court program designed to address the needs of veterans who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The court aims to divert eligible veterans away from incarceration and into rehabilitative services, providing them with access to resources and support tailored to their military experiences to reduce recidivism and promote successful reintegration into society.
The Corioli Institute led a mixed-methods study among Cook County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) participants, officials, and related stakeholders between April 2022 and April 2023. The interviews gathered narratives at length about individuals’ military service, lives leading up to their involvement in the Cook County Veterans Treatment Court, experiences in the VTC, and when relevant, time after graduation. The interview data revealed veterans’ experiences with the VTC, including barriers in becoming aware of and being able to access the VTC, elements of ambiguity and inconsistency in legal representation, frustrations related with drug testing requirements, and challenges faced in Court. Positive experiences with the VTC in terms of recognition and humanization, the sense of community and psychosocial safety that creates a positive feedback loop for the participants of the VTC also emerged. The CI team’s analysis drilled down to key elements that were associated with the successful completion of the VTC and also identified potential signs of unsuccessful experiences. A new suite of assessment mechanisms were developed for the Courts to use moving forward, resulting in a more effective ongoing understanding of VTC impact.