Friday, September 25, 2009

An Urgent Need to Reduce Re-offending by Ex-military Personnel

Today's announcement that over 20,000 ex-military personnel are currently within the UK’s criminal justice system must surely be seen as a disturbing indictment of our failure to care for those who have laid their lives on the line for their country.

The differences in attitudes are far reaching. On the one-hand crowds lining our streets with people openly weeping as bodies are returned home from Afghanistan, whilst on the other, being prepared to see men and women suffering from the traumas of war being incarcerated without appropriate treatment and support.

There is now an urgent need to address this damaging situation. Whilst not for one moment suggesting that crime by ex-military personnel is to be condoned, I am suggesting that most, owing to the trauma of war, represent a special case, deserving of special treatment. Critically, if we are to reduce the likelihood of their re-offending, we must address their wide ranging personal needs; prison and a lack of such support will not achieve this, and like many others within the justice system, they will inevitably go on to cost the country many millions of pounds in the future. Such a waste would be tragic.

In a previous blog below, dated 18 Aug 09, I highlighted the work of Alabaré Christian Care and the Royal British Legion in a half-way house in Plymouth where ex-military personnel are given the support needed and assisted back into full and productive lives. With the numbers of ex-military personnel in the justice system expected to grow significantly over the next few years, there is now an urgent need to provide more examples of such provision.

It has been suggested that there is insufficient money, yet by not making such provision we will continue to waste millions of pounds each year. By joining up the funding from public and charity sources the net cost to each would be relatively small, yet the net gain to society would be massive. With money from Health, Job Centre Plus, DWP, the Justice System, Local Authorities, Help for Heroes, Regimental funds and other charities, rapid provision could be made, all of which would not only serve to support those already in the justice system, but importantly help to divert those who are struggling. Surely our military personnel deserve more.

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