Sangamon County’s Veterans Treatment Court gave John Becker the opportunity to continue providing for his family as a union laborer.

The 30-year-old Springfield resident and U.S. Army specialist from 2008 to 2011 was one of two people Wednesday who constituted the first graduating class for the veterans court program that began in January 2018.

Mandated by state law for all Illinois judicial circuits, the program is designed to give veterans incentives and opportunities to avoid jail and prison time in exchange for a strict two-year probation program that keeps them on track to complete goals such as substance abuse and mental health counseling and treatment.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Becker, who entered the program after pleading guilty in 2018 to felony manufacture of methamphetamine and avoided a potential six-year prison term. “They keep you on a tight leash, but it’s something that is necessary to stay on the outside of the corrections system.”

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