Kingman’s Veterans Treatment Court making a difference
KINGMAN – Veterans Treatment Court specializes its resources and programs to assist veterans with whatever struggles they may be working through that landed them in the criminal justice system. Kingman Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey Singer says the program continues to expand and its worth is proven by looking at the numbers.
Judge Singer spoke to Council last week about the goal of Veterans Treatment Court and its benefit to those who have served in the U.S. military.
“Veterans Treatment Court is a problem solving court that’s intended to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness, PTSD, and recurring disorders, as well as any other issues the veteran may have including housing, employment and education,” Singer explained.
The court promotes sobriety, recovering and stability in an effort to give veteran participants the chance to be productive and healthy citizens.
Singer has been a lawyer for about 22 years and a judge for close to 16 years, “and it’s the thing I’m most proud of in my legal career,” he said of Veterans Treatment Court.
The treatment court follows the drug court model, Singer explained, only it is tailored specifically for veterans as they have unique experiences and circumstances needing to be addressed. There are currently more than 350 veteran courts in the country. Kingman’s came to be in 2015 and has graduated 29 veterans.
“Instead of jailing them, let’s try and do something else,” Singer said.
Those who think Veterans Treatment Court is an easy out for those who have served their country couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a detailed, comprehensive, three-phase program that requires commitment to graduate. Singer said sometimes participation in Veterans Treatment Court comes as a stipulation within a plea offer.
“And so a lot of times that’s the incentive they’re seeing right off the bat, but they don’t realize all the other benefits they’re going to get from this,” he said. “We’re going to get them sober. If they need help with housing, employment, transportation, education, PTSD, mental health, substance abuse counseling, whatever is going on in their lives, we hope that when they graduate from the program they’re in a lot better shape than when they first came into it.”
For veterans to advance to Phase 2, they must stay sober for 30 days. Moving to Phase 3 means a veteran has been sober for 90 days. They cannot leave the state without permission, must attend their court hearings, complete counseling, and cannot purchase or consume alcohol or illegal drugs. Participants are also assigned a mentor, who is also a veteran.
Veterans typically participate in the court for between seven and 18 months, but some stay in for a bit longer. Singer says Veterans Treatment Court is a marathon, not a sprint. Singer said he won’t let someone graduate if they aren’t ready.
“You’re not graduating until I’m convinced we aren’t going to see you in the criminal justice system again,” he said.
The judge said veteran treatment courts have the lowest recidivism rate of any specialty court in the criminal justice system. Kingman’s treatment court has so far only had one reoffender. Many continue to give back to the community after graduation and even volunteer as mentors.
“We’re just very proud of them, very proud of the graduates and very pleased with how this program has taken off,” the judge said.
He also thanked Council and the City for their support.
“It’s because of this program, it’s because you have enabled and allowed me to run and orchestrate this program that we’ve been able to give back to our community, and specifically our most cherished citizens, which are our veterans,” Singer said.