Offering Veterans A Fresh Start
A One-on-One with Lisa Wilson, Associate Judge, 10th Judicial District
You currently oversee the Veteran’s Problem Solving Court in Peoria County. What was the impetus behind developing this court program?
The Peoria County Veteran’s Problem Solving Court commenced on October 3, 2012, in response to the enactment of The Veterans and Service Members Court Treatment Act in 2012. Its mission is to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism by diverting veterans who are charged with a criminal offense from the county jails to a specialized court for appropriate treatment and support services.
What aspect of the program do you think is key to participants’ success?
There are many aspects of the Veterans Problem Solving Court which contribute to participants’ success. First, the veteran is immediately connected with the Veterans Justice Outreach Officer, a member of our team, who assists the veteran with scheduling the necessary healthcare appointments and obtaining financial assistance. In addition, the veteran can receive assistance with housing and other needs through the Veterans Administration and the Veterans Assistance Commission. In some instances, the veteran may need residential treatment for substance abuse issues, and a prompt referral and placement can be made for those services. In addition, the veteran also appears in court once per week or less frequently as he/she moves through the phases of the program.
Research has shown that judges in problem solving courts who spend at least 3 minutes with each participant and build that rapport will increase the success of the participant in the Problem Solving Court. Currently, our Veterans Problem Solving Court team is working on establishing a mentoring program for our veterans which will provide additional support for our veteran participant.
You’ve been on both sides, having previously served as a legal aid attorney. What is your 30-second elevator speech on why legal aid funding is so important?
Funding for legal services is critical because there is an increasing number of people who are unable to afford the services of a private attorney to meet their important legal needs. The number of pro se litigants is increasing in our court system in Illinois with civil legal cases such as family law, housing/foreclosure, small claims, sealings/expungements and adult and minor guardianships. Maneuvering the complex legal system is daunting for people without a lawyer. There is no substitute for a litigant having an attorney representing them in court in a complex legal dispute
Your days are filled with legal briefs and documents. What was the last thing you read for pleasure?
I just finished reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, who is the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. This book was a great read and very insightful.