New problem-solving courts in Kendall, Peoria and Tazewell counties have received certification by the Illinois Supreme Court.
These specialized courts are among more than 100 currently in operation throughout the state, including ones in Madison County.
Kendall County’s Drug Court has been certified by the Supreme Court, while Peoria County received certification for its DUI Court and Tazewell County for its Mental Health Court.
By certifying the problem-solving courts throughout the state, standards are created by the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts and the Special Supreme Court Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning. Illinois’ problem-solving courts provide an alternative to jail time for offenders with mental-health or substance-abuse issues.
Madison County also has problem-solving courts with a veterans, drug and mental health court.
And, in June, Madison County launched a Domestic Violence Accountability Court.
“Overall it’s a great success,” Dave Hylla, chief judge for the Third Judicial Circuit of Madison County, told the Record.
These courts benefit both the individual that goes through the program as well as the community once the offender has completed the process.
“It saves a person from a path of self-destruction and adds a contributing member to our community,” said Hylla.
These courts are cost-effective for the state, which otherwise would have to incarcerate offenders. The problem-solving courts provide a way for offenders to get clean in some instances and deal with the issues that have gotten them in trouble with the law in the first place.
“It’s astronomical the cost to incarcerate a person for a year versus the cost of putting a person into a drug court program, which sometimes takes them a year to get through,” said Hylla. “It costs them about $2,500.”
While the programs of the problem-solving courts are designed to help offenders, they are by no means an easy solution for defendants to avoid jail time. The programs these courts offer are developed to be tough and often have participants opting out because they can’t make it through the requirements.
“Not everyone that goes into drug court graduates,” said Hylla. “It’s not an easy program. Some of the people that go to drug court decide they would rather go to jail than finish their program and they voluntarily drop out.”
The majority of individuals who finish the programs of the problem-solving courts are grateful for the experience and appreciate those who have helped them along the way. By using a therapeutic approach that teams professionals in the justice system along with treatment providers, an individual gets a program with support and guidance.
“For them, it saves their lives,” said Hylla.