Report: Ex-servicemen in prison
New figures reveal discharged service personnel form the largest occupational group in prison in England and Wales
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Transitioning from service life to civilian life can be a real struggle for some Armed Forces personnel, and if that transition comes early due to injury, PTSD or other issues that can cause even more difficulty for the individual, as evidenced by the statistics.
Liz Price, Director of Client Services at SSAFA was interviewed on her thoughts about the results of the survey:
Why are there no precise figures for the number of ex-servicemen in prison?
“The question simply wasn’t being asked when prisoners were signed in and registered as they arrived,” says Price. However, in January 2015 it became a requirement for all prisons when they record data on inmates to ask whether they have served in the Armed Forces. The question may now be being asked but it is also a question about timing and how much someone is willing to reveal. Put yourself in their shoes, you’ve just arrived in a prison, you have no idea who these people are around you or whether it is safe for you to reveal that you have served in the Armed Forces.
Has concern for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) overshadowed other reasons ex-Servicemen might offend?
Price says that although PTSD affects a large proportion of service-leavers, a bigger issue of poor mental health needs to be addressed. She says: “Mental health is extremely poor in prisons and to what extent [an ex-service personnel’s] mental health issue is PTSD, or a personality disorder, or alcohol or drugs dependency is a whole other question.”
Why does there seem to be a gap between military personnel leaving the Armed Forces and offending?
PTSD issues aren’t often revealed while in the serving context because while still in service the individual is being supported by their ‘band of brothers/sisters’ who understand. It is only when the individual finds themselves completely alone that they find those issues start to seep out. And that is often how the delay is explained.
Why are early leavers more likely to offend?
A typical transition from military life to ‘civvy street’ will be scheduled to begin up to two years before an individual’s discharge date, Price explains. “They will be given a resettlement package that will include things like advice about employment, writing CVs, etc. But early leavers may be more vulnerable because they’ve signed up to serve Queen and country and they may, for example, be leaving because they’ve failed a drugs test, suffered a training injury or something has gone wrong. They need support because they may be going back to a very difficult environment and added to that, they’ve failed. Which makes things even worse.
To read the full report and statistics, visit Prison Watch UK’s page here.