Monday, December 16, 2013

Military Veterans in Civilian Prisons

This is undoubtedly a complex topic with many conflicting views.  Critically, over the last few years the number of veterans in prison has continued to rise with approximately 6.6% of the prison population (5,500) now veterans.  Greater numbers are on probation and community punishment orders.  Something clearly has been going wrong and needs to be addressed.

As many readers will know, over the last 5 years, here in Devon we have been developing a project (The Veterans Change Partnership).  Based upon a proven residential programme of personal development and change, it is specifically intended to help rehabilitate and support veteran offenders and their families - .

The partnership of over 30 public, private and voluntary sector organisations included support from Local Authorities, the NHS, Police, Probation and JCP.  Despite this, our application to the Armed Forces Covenant LIBOR fund to establish the programme was recently turned down; the project was clearly not considered sufficiently worthy. 

The panel responsible included representatives from some of the leading military charities.  Sadly, the outdated and punitive belief that punishment promotes positive change and behaviour remains extant.  I fear that until those in positions of authority are able to understand that such an approach merely re-enforces  the negative thoughts and feelings of the offender and fails to address the underlying needs, little will change.

It is to be very much hoped that the Sgt Blackman case will serve as a catalyst in helping to promote increased awareness and much needed positive change.