On Dec. 20, Army veteran Raymond Petriskey had his day in court – not as a offender, but as a graduate. And in doing so, he became the seventh graduate of the recently-founded Kingman Veterans Treatment Court (VTC).
According to court-supplied literature, the goal of the VTC is “to restore veterans to being successful, contributing members of the community. The Court focuses on ensuring that veterans entering the criminal justice system make contact with specific programs to address the root causes of the behavior that resulted in the veteran becoming a defendant in the criminal justice system.”
When a veteran comes into contact with the legal system, the VTC has an opportunity to intervene: “Veterans Treatment Court is a problem-solving court that is intended to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness, PTSD and/or reoccurring disorders as well as any other issues the veteran may have, including housing, employment and education.” The VTC takes a holistic approach to treatment, and all within the context of a rigorous legal system.
The Honorable Jeffrey Singer presides over Kingman’s VTC. Shortly after Singer’s arrival in Kingman in 2015, the VTC was established in partnership with the Lake Havasu VTC. The Kingman VTC’s first court date took place Dec. 9, 2015.
According to Singer, the relationship between the Kingman and Lake Havasu VTCs has been a particularly fruitful one. The two courts were recently awarded a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Receipt of this grant placed the Kingman and Lake Havasu courts into a highly exclusive cohort.
“We are the only court in the state of Arizona to be awarded the grant, and only one of four in the country,” Singer said.
Singer said he has a personal connection to this job. He lost his brother – a United States Marine veteran – to drug overdose. This experience fuels his motivation.
“And sometimes I’d like to think that if there were veterans treatment courts around back then, that maybe we’d have a different result for him,” Singer said. “So that’s what kind of drives me as I think about my brother and I think about the path he took, and I just wish these kind of programs existed back then because he may still be with us today.”
“I can almost see him ... and their troubles trying to overcome these addictions ... and stay on the right side of the law.”
Singer brings a personal touch to his to responsibilities at the VTC. At the beginning of each case review, he steps down from his bench, shakes the hand of the veteran and thanks them for their service. He then proceeds to converse with them about their progress through the program, admonishing, advising, and commending them accordingly. At the end of each review, he asks, “What can we do for you?”
On the north side of the VTC courtroom there is a “Graduate Wall of Honor,” emblazoned with the four branch emblems and adorned with a quote: “Leave no veteran behind.”
On Dec. 20, it would seem, the court had fulfilled its commitment to Petriskey.
With a strained voice and a tearful countenance, Petriskey said, “Thank you, it helped me.”