JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and the Joliet Park District announce a partnership on a unique trial program designed to help participants in various specialty courts focus on their fitness and nutrition.
The Specialty Courts Wellness Program will bring a dozen participants from Drug Court, Veterans Court, Mental Health Court and/or Adult Redeploy Illinois Court to the Joliet Park District’s Inwood Athletic Club, where they will exercise and learn about healthy eating. Participants in these Specialty Courts have been charged with certain non-violent offenses stemming from their addictions to either drugs or alcohol or from their mental health issues.
Joliet Park District Nutrition Supervisor Gloria Dollinger, RDN, LDN, (from left) discusses the implementation of a Wellness Program at the Inwood Athletic Club for Specialty Court participants with Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, Park District Executive Director Tom Carstens and Specialty Courts Coordinator Julie McCabe-Sterr.
The Wellness Program, which begins on Oct. 19, will require participants to meet for one hour each week for six weeks at Inwood. They will begin the sessions by discussing healthy eating habits with the Park District’s nutrition experts, followed by supervised exercise programs that include: bands and body weight fitness; relaxation yoga; strength training; body weight training and yoga; and interval training and weights. Nutrition discussions will focus on educating participants about the benefits of healthy eating, which includes meal planning, incorporating fruits and vegetables into diets, eating nourishing breakfasts, and consuming water instead of other beverages.
“The individuals in our Specialty Courts struggle with addiction or with various mental health issues. In the case of veterans, these issues can include not only drug addictions, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from their service to our Nation,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “The exercise regime and healthy eating habits required through this pilot program will provide these individuals with the skills and discipline necessary to become healthy and cope with the daily stressors that brought them into contact with the criminal justice system.”
In addition to the one-hour weekly sessions, participants in the pilot program will receive a 10-week membership to the Inwood Athletic Club. Once the trial program is completed, it will be evaluated by the Park District and the State’s Attorney’s Office with an eye toward offering it to future Specialty Court participants.
The Wellness Program will be directed by two of the Joliet Park District’s nutrition and/or fitness experts: Gloria Dollinger, RDN, LDN, Nutrition Supervisor; and Tracee Carr, Group Fitness and Yoga Instructor.
“Learning healthy exercise and eating strategies can give the participant a greater sense of well-being, feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives,” Dollinger said.
In Specialty Courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys work with the judge and treatment providers to help defendants who have committed non-violent offenses battle their addictions and manage their mental health issues. Those allowed into the program are carefully screened and must remain drug free, submit to random drug tests, find employment, follow through with treatment and attend weekly court sessions. If they successfully complete their programs, the criminal charges filed against them are dismissed.
The Wellness Program is one of many Specialty Court innovations enacted under State’s Attorney Glasgow’s direction. The State’s Attorney supervised the opening and operation of the first Drug Court run recovery homes – one for men (the Miller Taylor House), and one for women (the Julie Ann House) – for those who are nearing the completion of the program. In addition, the State’s Attorney has incorporated the use of several specially trained therapy dogs to relax participants and ease tensions during groups counseling sessions.
“Our Specialty Courts succeed on two critical fronts,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “On one level, the program provides the necessary treatment and counseling services to help non-violent offenders deal effectively with the addictions and mental health issues that drove them to commit their crimes in the first place. On a larger scale, Specialty Courts help the entire community by turning around the lives of people who once had been a financial burden on society. Everyone benefits when a defendant stops committing crimes and becomes a productive citizen who holds a job, pursues an education, owns a home, raises a family and pays taxes.”