Spotlight on King County Regional Veterans Court Mentor Program

By Troy Brown, Communication Manager, King County District Court

The King County Regional Veterans Court (RVC) seeks to increase effective cooperation between federal, state and local veterans’ service agencies and the criminal justice system. The RVC’s Mentor Program is a key part of the support available to help veterans successfully complete the RVC requirements.

“Veterans often find it hard to talk to others who are not veterans, or to ask for help,” says Terrell Carrington, RVC Mentor Program Coordinator for King County District Court, and a U.S. Army veteran himself. “The RVC Mentor Program connects participants with someone who can relate to their past experiences. A mentor can help program participants on the road to recovery, whether it is offering encouraging words, showing up for court hearings, or assisting in finding resources, when needed.”

Someone who is there for the vet

“The most important thing a mentor does for RVC participants is just being there,” says Terrell. “They show the veteran that their efforts are not going unnoticed, and continuously support their recovery.”

“One way I think about a veteran mentor is similar to a personal trainer at the gym,” adds Callista Welbaum, Therapeutic Courts Manager for District Court. “When you’re working on your own goals, it’s really helpful to have someone with lived experience who has been there and can be a support – having someone come along side you is incredibly powerful!”

Kate Tramontana, RVC Coordinator for District Court notes, “Most of our participants who have utilized mentors build lasting relationships with them, and that relationship doesn’t end when the participant leaves our program.”

RVC Mentor Coordinator’s role

Terrell Carrington, RVC Mentor Program Coordinator, joined District Court with eight years in the military and a degree in social and human services. “When I realized this position was available, I jumped on it!” he says. “I wanted to be part of the support and to give back to my veteran brothers and sisters.”

Although Terrell’s work focuses on recruiting mentors and connecting RVC participants with a mentor who is well-suited to each person’s background, Callista adds there are additional key aspects to the role: “Beyond his direct support to veterans, in order to get more mentors, Terrell ends up talking a lot about RVC in general to many people. He is like our own RVC ambassador, which helps build support for the court.”

As a veteran himself, Terrell understands the difficulties many vets experience after serving in the military. “I have been on the good side and the bad side,” he says. “I know that trying to adjust from the “dress-right-dress” environment to civilian life is tough. I fought my demons after my military separation and had to do it without support, so I know how difficult it is.”

What people might not know about RVC

When asked about misperceptions the public might have about RVC, Kate mentions several. “One is that all of our RVC participants are males,” she says.  “While we do have mostly males in this program, we also serve female veterans.”

Kate also notes that some people might think that participating in a therapeutic court such as RVC is the “easy way out” for defendants to get out of serving jail time. “In reality, participating in a therapeutic court is more difficult than possibly just serving jail time in that it requires participants to do quite a lot as part of their engagement with treatment, probation and other court-imposed requirements.  Most folks are on probation for two years, and full compliance for that entire time can be challenging.”

Making a real difference in vet’s lives

The RVC Team often hears from vets how much the program helped them. One example is Mr. Bishop, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He was diagnosed with cancer in the early 2000s, and his wife of 46 years died in 2015. “I kind of went off the deep end after that,” he said in a 2019 interview with Q13 News. “I was really down and out and got in trouble with the law.” He credited his participation in the court with helping him have “the strength to keep my health up;” He graduated from RVC in early 2021. Watch his story and see more about RVC on Q13: “King County helps eligible veterans in criminal justice system get their lives back on track.”

Click to learn more about Regional Veterans Court.