For the first time in nearly three years, the Livingston County Veterans Treatment Court was able to hold an in-person graduation session on Wednesday.
The treatment-based problem solving court serves veterans who have become involved in the criminal justice system, pairing them up with fellow veterans who serve as mentors. That shared experience allows them to better understand the issues that a veteran may be struggling with, including substance abuse, PTSD or traumatic brain injury.
The Pledge of Allegiance started out the session, which was held in a packed courtroom with many local officials in attendance, including several county commissioners, state Rep. Bezotte (R-Howell), Sheriff Mike Murphy, Prosecutor David Reader and Chief Judge Michael Hatty.
53rd District Court Judge Shauna Murphy, who presides over the program, held half a dozen review hearings as part of the program’s normal docket. She got an update from each veteran on their progress through the program and congratulated each on their successes, also providing encouragement to continue.
Several of the veterans spoke about how the program had helped them and their determination to stay sober and out of trouble.
Then those who had graduated from the program had a chance to speak. One of them said the mentor program was a “huge asset” and that it allowed him to be around people who were positive role models and focused on his well-being.
The ceremony also recognized the Veterans Court team and mentors, who Judge Murphy said make all the difference.
“What’s unique about Veterans Court is that we do have mentors and they do have to be veterans,” she told GIGO News. “And we have a lot of community members that participate as veteran mentors. They’re purely volunteers. They’re not compensated in any way and they spend hundreds of hours of their time every year dedicated to the Veterans Court participants.”
Judge Murphy also noted that the stories which the veterans shared were indicative of a process that has a 94% success rate.
“And that’s why we do this job,” she said. “The journey from beginning to end is night and day. You couldn’t really have a more dramatic transformation from any of our veterans. They start out entering the criminal justice system because a crime was committed and they end as fully productive citizens, usually having addressed many substance abuse or mental health issues.”