Friday, April 15, 2011

Reducing Re-offending by Military Veteran Offenders - Recognising and Addressing their Special Needs

Yesterday I attended a Veterans in Prison Association (VIPA) conference in London. Key speakers included Lord Ramsbotham, Simon Weston, Michael Spur and various specialists who deal with mental health issues and the impact of war on the minds of those exposed to it.

It is not possible to enter into a complete account of the days presentations and discussions. Suffice to say, it was a packed event with considerable support from the majority of delegates for the introduction of alternative and specialist provision for veteran offenders.

Regrettably, whilst apparently recognising the enormous sacrifice that many veterans and their families have paid and are paying in support of their country, NOMS made it clear that they do not support the proposal for any form of special provision for this group of offenders. Rather, NOMS policy is for veteran offenders to simply have access to the same services as those of other offenders.

Most delegates felt that this policy not only went against the spirit of the Military Covenant, it also ignored the unique impact that military life and intensive periods of conflict has on the minds of military personnel and their families. It is particularly regrettable that the policy has been made by those who have not had to endure such hardships and emotional extremes. We can only hope that Ministers with direct responsibilities for our military personnel will reflect upon the policy and direct that it be reviewed and changed as a matter of urgency.

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