Veterans have greater access to special courts under Winger proposal

A bill sponsored by State Representative Christine Winger (R-Wood Dale) to increase the number of Veterans Courts in Illinois cleared its first hurdle. House Bill 5003 passed out of committee unanimously on Tuesday.

Veterans Courts focus directly on the needs of former and current members of the armed forces. Currently, there are 12 Veteran Court programs in Illinois. All are limited to veterans with non-violent records who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. Veterans who qualify and successfully comply with court orders get the treatment they need and can have charges dismissed. As of 2014, problem-solving courts including Veteran Treatment Courts kept 1,200 offenders out of prison, saving the state of Illinois nearly $20 million.

Winger’s bill requires the Chief Judge of each judicial circuit to establish a Veterans and Servicemembers Court program. The legislation specifies that the Chief Judge of each circuit has the discretion to decide the format of the program, whether it’s a separate court or a problem solving court, including but not limited to a drug court or mental health court.

“Men and women who have bravely served our country deserve a chance to get their lives back together,” explained Winger. “Many are in their current situation because they were suffering from the effects of their military service.”

House Bill 5003 awaits a vote on the House floor.

Other Winger Legislation scheduled for committee hearing
Winger’s legislation to prohibit the knowing installation of “stalkerware” on digital devices without the consent of the primary adult users of those devices is schedule for committee work in April. The legislation was introduced in response to the growing use of “stalkerware” by abusers in domestic violence situations.

“If signed-into law, HB 5794 will be an important tool in protecting victims from their abusers,” said Winger.