WLDS-WEAI is continuing to follow a story regarding how Morgan County Commissioners are responding to a Freedom of Information Act Request relating to possible Veterans Court scenarios.
Local attorney and veterans advocate Tyson Manker sent a FOIA request to Morgan County officials regarding the board’s regular meeting on February 6th 2017.
Manker references two military veterans asking about the Illinois Veterans and Servicemember Court Treatment Act in Morgan County. On Wednesday, Morgan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Brad Zeller spoke with WLDS-WEAI and said that they are still in the early stages of speaking with State’s Attorney Gray Noll and Judge Chris Reif.
Jon Stewart is a veteran who is advocating for change and says, veterans deserve more.
“Somethings that could cause a veteran arrest or anyone for that matter. Could be a mental health issue, could be substance abuse or something like that. Instead of possibly taking that veteran and giving him a criminal record for the rest of his life, let’s try to do what they do in drug court. I think it’s unfair a veteran coming back home from overseas, trying to readjust to civilian life, some time it’s not always easy. Some people don’t have a problem with it, but some other veterans it’s a big problem to try and readjust to this life, so a lot of things happen to where they might get involve in things or maybe a substance abuse problem. I think that if we have this resource available why don’t we use it for veterans and try not to ruin their lives.“ said Stewart.
Stewart says having these programs for veterans are not uncommon. He would like to see something done on the local level.
“I’ve seen other courts, other counties do this. Especially other states, I think Buffalo, New York did it in 2009 and their success rate has been tremendous. Personally I have had friends of mine who are veterans, had altercations with the law and no one went to bat for them type of thing. It as been over a year, since it was brought up to the county commissioners. I am trying to get a backing from the local veterans organizations in the community that way we can say, we have this, we want this, we are supposed to have this, what are you going to do for us.“ said Stewart.
According to Stewart, he has already received support from 15 local veterans and 2 veteran agencies in Jacksonville. He plans on gathering more support in the near future. Stewart talks about how important it is for him being a veteran.
“It’s very important especially when it comes to veterans because I don’t want to see a veteran go down the wrong road and not have the support or not able to get the help. I’ve seen it too many times, especially personally with friends of my own when things happen and they go from bad to worse.”
Right now, Stewart is waiting on a response from Morgan County. The Illinois Veterans and Servicemember Court Treatment Act was signed into law on June 11th, 2010. It was later amended on August 14th 2016.