Dawn Civill-Williams

Veterans in the Criminal Justice System Caseworker.

Dawn Civill-Williams

Veterans in the Criminal Justice System Caseworker.

Unlike most charities SSAFA will help veterans serving a prison sentence, regardless of the crimes they have committed. Our volunteer caseworkers in the criminal justice system offer support and advice to people who served in the military and help them make positive changes for the future.

Dawn, a SSAFA caseworker, has been supporting the veteran population in prisons in Bristol for the past two years. She works primarily with HMP Leyhill, a category D open male prison and HMP Ashfield, a category C male sex offenders treatment prison. 

 “A key part of doing this work is being non-judgemental. I help people regardless of what they have done, and it is important to see the human behind the crime.

 “Usually our veterans have lost their job, home, family and friends. Sometimes, I am the only person who visits them and supports them. If they have any hope of getting their life on the right path, they need to be respected and have their dignity restored.

 “In my experience some veterans who have seen operational service are desensitised to normality and this leads to increased risk-taking behaviour. This doesn’t excuse criminal behaviour, and of course this is not true of all our retired servicemen and women. But it may go some way to understanding why veterans offend.

 “I understand that some people will wonder why I help the people I help. Mostly they are people who have made an error of judgement, but who have the potential to change and meaningfully become part of society when they are released.”

Successful reintegration will prevent reoffending

Dawn helps veterans inside prison, but also helps them get back on their feet when they are first released. She has supported veterans with grants for food, clothing vouchers, rent, white and brown goods and training courses, supporting the transition from custody to civilian life and reducing the risk of reoffending. She visits the prisons every month and supports with War Pension and housing applications.

“I enjoy my volunteering role immensely. It isn’t always easy, and there are very difficult days where I question what I am doing. But ultimately, I know that not only am I helping an individual who often has no one else, I am making a difference to my community as well. It’s clear that successful reintegration will prevent reoffending.”