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New Will County drug court seeks to help veterans

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow (far left) Will County Public Defender Frank Astrell(second from left) stbefore Circuit Judge CarlAlessio

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow (far left) and Will County Public Defender Frank Astrella (second from left) stand before Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes (far right) as Glasgow petitions for a specialized Will County Veterans and Servicemembers Court at the Will County Court Annex Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at 57 N. Ottawa St. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 29, 2012 9:14AM

JOLIET — Marco Vizcaino served his country in the U.S. Army during his tour of duty in Iraq. Now his country has extended a hand, and shed some tears, to help him.

A new Will County Veterans and Servicemembers Court will address cases of men and women struggling after returning from military service.

Vizcaino, after being honorably discharged from the Army, has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and has struggled with substance abuse, said Frank A. Astrella, Will County public defender, in court Wednesday. Vizcaino is facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance, Astrella said. Vizcaino’s case is being handled in the new court, which is there to provide treatment, counseling and assistance, recognizing veterans’ important service.

“I’m just overwhelmed by the chance at another opportunity at life — and being able to turn it around,” said Vizcaino, of Naperville, after the hearing.

“I’m just very excited to find out that they’re doing this here in Will County. I’m really grateful to everybody who was involved. They’re supporting me 100 percent,” said the veteran, who served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008.

On Wednesday in Will County court, State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed a petition before Chief Judge Gerald Kinney and Circuit Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes. The petition sought to establish the specialized Veterans and Servicemembers Court. Policandriotes approved the petition, and Vizcaino was accepted into the new court, during an emotional hearing attended by county leaders and veterans.

Tears flowed during some moments.

The new court will function like the existing drug court in Will County, according to a statement from Glasgow’s office. In many cases, selected defendants will be required to plead guilty to their crimes up front before they are allowed into the court. They will be required to remain drug free, submit to random drug tests, find work, follow through with treatment and attend weekly counseling sessions. If they comply with all of the court terms, they will graduate and their charges will be dismissed.

In certain cases, the court may not require a guilty plea upfront, or the state may forego filing criminal charges at all if the participant successfully completes the program.

“We enjoy extraordinary freedoms because of heroic sacrifices by veterans and servicemembers from all branches of our armed forces,” Glasgow said. “Thousands of veterans are returning home today suffering from substance abuse problems or mental health disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder or depression. When they come in contact with the criminal justice system, we have an obligation to acknowledge their service and provide them with the treatment and counseling necessary for them to regain their lives.”

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