Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I am not suggesting that prison does not have a role. In the few extreme examples that individuals have given privately - major violent robbery, murder etc; prison will be inevitable. Regrettably, some people have become so damaged by their experiences in life they are indeed a danger to society and do need to be kept in a secure environment, albeit preferably one that can help them to change. Equally, I am not suggesting that the consequences of committing crime should not involve some form of punishment. I am however suggesting that the majority of people who enter the justice system are not dangerous. Rather, they made a mistake, often as a result of alcohol abuse and the lack skills, ability and support to get their lives back on track. Emotions surrounding guilt, shame, loss of self esteem, confidence and mental depression all tend to rise in prominence. It is estimated that approximately 70% of the prison population suffer with some form of mental illness. By simply adopting a punitive approach and locking people up, we merely re-enforce the same thoughts and feelings; nothing changes. The damaging impact that all this has on families and the wider society tends to be ignored, resulting in the children going on to experience similar thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Once again, the financial costs are enormous.
Following the Falklands war, more people who fought during the war subsequently committed suicide than were killed during the fighting. Others became homeless and offended.
Notwithstanding the often high levels of combat related stress experienced in NI, UK forces, particularly land and air forces, have now been involved in continuous and major levels combat for the last 19 years (Balkans, two Iraq wars and Afghanistan). Evidence is showing that financial, social and human costs are profound. It is therefore essential that we address these issues. Punishment by itself fails to achieve this; I believe that our veterans deserve better.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Responsible department: Ministry of Justice
The number of veterans in prison and on probation in England and Wales continues to rise. Estimates vary from official 2009 figures of 3.5% to unofficial but soundly based estimates of between 10-14% today. These do not include Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere. Whichever are the more accurate, veterans represent the largest occupational group in the Justice System. Many suffer with combat related mental health issues and struggle to settle into civilian life. Many families experience breakdown, veterans become homeless, ending up in the criminal justice system. When recognising the Military Covenant and that our veterans and their families have served with courage, honour and pride, they surely deserve better than prison. We therefore respectfully ask Parliament to legislate for veteran offenders to be seen as a special case, so as to avoid prison and to be supported back into society.