Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stop Military Veterans going to Prison - e-petition

In writing the petition, it is important to understand that an e- petition is limited to 1000 characters. It is a complex issue and not easy to set out in a short statement. In the first instance my aim was to generate interest. My intention now is to promote increased reflective thought and debate.

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.

No comments: