CHICAGO — A second chance and a fresh start. For veterans caught in the criminal justice system, a comprehensive project is laying the groundwork for new opportunities.

The University of Chicago’s Office for Military-Affiliated Communities’ (OMAC) Veterans Restorative Justice Project works with Cook County’s Veterans Treatment Court, wrapping veterans in supportive services to help them succeed.

The public, private and philanthropic partnership launched in January, funded by a McCormick Foundation grant.

“Some individuals who have mental health challenges find themselves in the jail system or court system because of crimes of desperation,” said OMAC director, Terrell Odom. “How do we restore them as a person?” Veterans assisting with the project see it as a continuation of their service. WGN’s Gaynor Hall and photojournalists Audrey Haynes, Ted Parra and Kevin Doellman report in this Cover Story