Rogers County’s newest alternative court is celebrating its one-year anniversary.
District 12 Judge Dwayne Steidley oversees the Veteran’s Court.
For many veterans, the battles fought while serving our country overseas will follow them home; and trying to get back to normal can seem impossible. Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other medical issues. Addictions can develop from attempts to self-medicate the stress, recurring nightmares and anxiety, according to Michelle Lowry, community outreach coordinator for 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“Admission to our Veterans Court is not automatic. But where appropriate helping veterans resolve underlying issues that lead to criminal behaviors often prevents any future offenses,” District Attorney Janice Steidley said.
The Rogers County Veterans Court is modeled after the nationally recognized Tulsa County Veterans Court launched in 2008, which boasts a 96 percent success rate, Lowry said.
Participants attended their monthly court appearance Wednesday, each providing a brief summary of their progress in the program.
Charles Striplin, first time offender, said there are five phases to the program and the judge offers “no special favors” and the “court is run by the book.”
Striplin started his journey through the intensive program in August 2013. On Wednesday he was promoted to phase three.
The program includes a 90-day period where each participant attends a 12-step program meeting everyday.
“They are very strict, they run a tight ship.” Striplin said. “If you do everything you are supposed to, they are as nice as they can be. If not you are in trouble.”
This court is a great opportunity because of my age, Striplin said. He is 65 years old and one of many participants over age 40.
A few young people also participate in the program. One of which is young woman, in her 20’s, who served four years in the Army as an x-ray technician.
“I feel like I am doing really well and at a point to move on,” the woman said.
Most of the soldier’s time was spent in Germany helping patients at the military medical facilities.
The woman became addicted to heroine, which is why she became a participant in the Veteran’s court.
“I am very grateful I ended up in here,” she said.
Other Veteran’s echoed similar stories at the hearing.
Approximately seven Veteran’s participated in the hearing.
The court has 15 participants and none have had the opportunity to complete the program, which can take up to three years.
Values, responsibility and tolerance are just a few of the lessons taught through the program. The Veteran’s have the ability to participate in group therapy as well as one-on-one counseling during the program.