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.

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