Wisconsin court system veterans initiative celebrates second year, honors first graduate
Madison, Wisconsin - January 13, 2011
|Rock County Circuit Court Judge James P. Daley congratulates Casey Johnson of Beloit, Wisconsin's first Veterans Treatment Court graduate. Photo courtesy of the Janesville Gazette.|
A program to help address the unique issues facing veterans and active-duty service personnel in the criminal justice system celebrates its second anniversary this month and marks a milestone: the first graduation from the Rock County Veterans Court Treatment Program.
Casey Johnson of Beloit, an Iraq War veteran, was charged with battery and disorderly conduct and given an opportunity to participate in a treatment program through the Rock County Veterans Court Treatment Program – the first of its kind in Wisconsin. Johnson successfully completed alcohol treatment and anger-management classes, and the charges against him were dismissed during a graduation ceremony.
"It was a great day," said Judge James Daley, a Marine brigadier general and decorated Vietnam veteran who directs the program. "Casey worked hard, and everyone involved in the program learned a great deal that will help us as we move forward."
Daley said the Rock County court is currently handling seven other cases, including four diverted from Dane, Jefferson, Lafayette and Winnebago counties. "The need is there, and we want to do our best to meet it," he said.
The veterans initiative incorporates an array of projects across the state, including formal veterans court programs in three Wisconsin counties (Rock, Iron, La Crosse) with a fourth (Chippewa Valley, serving Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn counties) set to open this month. The court system effort was launched in January 2009, shortly after the State Public Defender's Office and Department of Veterans Affairs held a day-long conference to explore issues related to veterans in the criminal justice system. The court system program began at the request of Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, who became convinced of the need during a tour of Wisconsin's 72 county courthouses.
"In county after county, I learned that we needed to do a better job of identifying combat veterans in court and connecting them with available services," Abrahamson wrote in a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Kenneth Black. "In some counties, there was a sense that veterans might be best served through specialized court programs tailored to meet their unique needs. I brought these concerns and ideas back to Madison, and the work began."
Abrahamson emphasized that the veterans initiative would not be possible without strong partners across the criminal justice system and in the Veterans Administration.
"Much work remains," she told Black, "but I am confident that we shall continue to find new and more effective strategies for responding to the unique needs of combat veterans, for we owe them – and their communities – no less."
Amanda K. Todd
Court Information Officer