Madison County Circuit Judge Charles Romani, who retired in November after 30 years on the bench, was honored Tuesday evening for his work in establishing the local Veterans' Treatment Court in 2009.

In a packed Meridian Ballroom on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, more than 250 people, including active-duty military members, veterans, local attorneys, judges and law makers, turned out for a dinner and fund-raiser for the not-for-profit foundation that supports the specialized court.

One of the many accolades for the honoree came from a veteran who had successfully completed treatment in the court. In a brief, but emotional address, he expressed gratitude for the personal attention paid to him by Romani through the ups and downs of treatment.

In his remarks, Romani - himself a veteran of the Vietnam war - emphasized that the success of the Veterans' Treatment Court has been due to a collaborative effort from support staff, fellow judges, prosecutors, defenders, counselors and others.

He said that over his long career he was most proud of his work with the Veteran's Court, "as a veteran, a man and a human being."

Madison County's Veterans' Treatment Court was the third such court of its kind in the entire nation.  It has since received awards and grants from across the country including awards from the Department of Defense.

Recognizing that military service often has a high risk of such things as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental, physical and financial issues, the court assists honorably discharged veterans who are involved in the criminal justice system with counseling, job-support and encouragement with the ultimate goal of restoring the veteran to a full-life without the burden of carrying a criminal conviction.

Some of the stated goals of the court are to enhance public safety by reducing recidivism of veteran offenders and reducing costs associated with the criminal justice system by eliminating incarceration and processing.

Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli, who now oversees the court, said the program's 75 percent success rate -as measured by recidivism - is almost opposite what the rate is for those who go through traditional criminal courts.

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