Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reducing Re-offending by Ex-Servicemen

On the 18th of this month, in a previous blog (see below), I drew attention to the plight of an estimated 8,500 ex-service personnel who are now held in prison. Interestingly, today within the Prison estate there are currently over 8,865 more people than it is designed to hold.

With the overcrowding, the government is urgently seeking ways to reduce the number of offenders locked up. Providing an alternative for our ex-service personnel, the majority of whom committed crime following the physical and mental impact of numerous operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, would clearly be one simple solution. With the current suppport of so many members of the general public, ex-service Regimental Associations and charities, many of these formally loyal and proud individuals could be helped back to a full and productive life, whilst at the same time easing the strain within our prisons.

If you think this is a good idea, please register your support via this blog; thank you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Changing Lives Together - 'Fusion'

Fusion is a project tackling the causes of anti-social behaviour and crime whilst also improving the positive image of young people in society. It is a cross-sector partnership, funded by Devon County Council, forming a collaborative approach to the provision of positive activities, personal development and opportunities for young people to share their talents in ways that benefit them and the community, whilst also providing capacity and support for organisations, community leaders and families.

The organisations involved include DAISI (Devon Arts in Schools Initiative), The IVY Project (Engaging young people in volunteering), Young Devon (Leading the project and campaigning alongside and for young people), Life Change UK (Providing staff training in the managment of challenging behaviour), YPoD, (A youth led body ensuring that young people's views remain central to the project), Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue (Providing a Firesetter Intervention programme), Devon Racial Equality Council, and Devon and Cornwall Police.

Having identified a number of hot spots in the County, the project members are providing a range of activities and mentor support to many young people and their families, including peer education in addressing alcohol misuse, all of which is helping to reduce offending and anti-social behaviour.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Re-offending by former Servicemen - Another way

In my previous blog I drew attention to the number of ex-military personnel in prison. Today the MOD announced that in addition to the 204 deaths in Afghanistan, over the last 18 months nearly 500 personnel had been physically injured. What has not been announced were the number who, as a consequence of their injuries and experiences, are now suffering with depression, PTSD and other forms of severe mental health issues.

Sadly, the fall-out from these injuries (physical and mental) will be that many individuals will fail to gain alternative employment and inevitably become further depressed and involved in alcohol, drug misuse, violence and crime. The net outcome will be a further increase in ex-service personnel in our prisons - currently 8,500 out of a total of 84,000 (10%).

If we are to reduce re-offending these individuals must be seen as a special case with special provision and an alternative to prison. In Plymouth, the Royal British Legion and has entered into a partnership with AlabarĂ© Christian Care, providing a supported house for up to 8 ex-servicemen who are experiencing such personal problems. This must surely be the way forward. With housing currently more affordable and the need growing, such provision will also be more economical - the cost of keeping the 8,500 service personnel in custody is estimated to be approximately £215 million pound a year; this is projected to increase significantly over the next 5 to 15 years. For that type of money hundreds of half-way houses could be purchased, each accommodating 10 people - the size of the prison population would be reduced significantly, freeing up resources to deal with other offenders and the reduction of re-offending. Importantly, with the ongoing support by trained volunteer mentors from military and Regimental Associations, and funding from both public and charitable sources, the vast majority of those ex-service people in need would soon be helped back into a purposeful life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ex-military Personnel enter the Criminal Justice System post Operations in Afghanistan

Approximately 8,500 ex-forces personnel are currently in prison owing to a multitude of offences, primarily drug, alcohol and violence related. It has been estimated that these figures could double in the next 5 to 15 years due to individuals suffering from PTSD and other health problems following repeated operational tours in Afghanistan.

Whilst we hear about the deaths of our servicemen and women in Afghanistan, rarely do we hear about the very large numbers suffering physical injuries and mental trauma. The latter is particularly difficult to measure; however, the reality is that levels of depression and PTSD experienced by service personnel and their families is profound, often resulting in family break up and increasing alcohol and drug abuse. Many subsequently leave the service and return to civilian life, this time alone, confused and more frightened than when they were on operations.

Combat Stress and other charity groups are working hard to help address these issues. Notwithstanding, many servicemen find themselves unemployed, angry, depressed, confused and in ill-health, with increasing numbers entering the criminal justice system. Is this how we are to repay our servicemen and their families for putting their lives on the line?

With a relatively small investment, most could be helped to regain their former pride, confidence and self-respect, once again becoming valuable members of society. Will society take on this challenge or will we rest on our laurels and hope that others will do it for us?