Veterans Treatment Court Marks Its 10th Anniversary In Tulsa County
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - It’s been 10 years since Tulsa County became the first county in the state to start a court docket specifically for veterans, and the alternative system has now helped 200 men and women avoid prison time.
Veterans Treatment Court started in 2008 after 158 veterans were arrested in Tulsa County one month alone. At the time, it was the third county in the United States to launch a model focused on connecting veterans to mental health and social services, instead of jail time.
Veteran Roady Landtiser spent four years in the Army and got into trouble once he returned home. With a felony charge and lost time with his son, he said the program changed his life.
"I have PTSD. I got treatment. I have family back in my life. I graduated, and I got my freedom back, most importantly,” said Landtiser. "PTSD is a hard thing to deal with. And we cope in numerous ways, using drugs or alcohol in order to shut down the feelings we have."
Landtiser said he would have spent 10 years in prison if it weren’t for the program.
"When I got out, I lost that comradery. With PTSD, I also have addiction issues. So all of those things are isolating. This brought me out of isolation, and into society again,” said Lantiser.
The five-phase program has an 89% completion rate.
"A lot of them are used to the accountability from the military. And when they get out, they kind of lose some of that, as we all did. And getting back into this system, where they have to be accountable for basically everything they do, is very helpful for them.", said Sandy Bingaman, a Navy Veteran who serves as a mentor with the program.
Bingaman said even though she is no longer serving her country, as a mentor she feels rewarded in knowing she’s helping fellow veterans, whether it’s a weekly phone call or standing by their side in the courtroom.
“That's how we help them, is by being a battle buddy for them,” said Bingaman. "Being in the prison system, they don't belong there. These people need help. Some of these men and women have seen horrendous things and it comes home with them. They don't leave it in the sandbox.”
The program’s motto is ‘Leave No Veteran Behind and Honor their Service’.
Lantiser said it couldn’t hold truer since Veterans Treatment Court helped him get his felony expunged.
With family a top priority, he now he gets to spend time with his son. He was also just accepted into a sheet metal apprenticeship program in Tulsa.
"It's pretty hard for me to walk into these rooms because they gave me so much opportunity,” he said. "I can't express it. I was looking at a long time in prison and to have the opportunity to have my freedom back and to have family back, I'm just grateful."
Veterans Treatment Court leaders said they’ve hosted more than 100 jurisdictions from across the country, helping them start similar veteran-focused models.