Record number of ex-soldiers behind bars

July 17, 2012
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New research from criminal justice group No Offence suggests that as many as 1 in 10 inmates of prisons in Britain are former soldiers. This proportion is, worryingly, almost 3 times higher than the official figures of 3.4%.

One MP, Elfyn Llwyd, who chairs a parliamentary group that looks into the problem of veterans in prison, highlighted one of the possible reasons for the inaccuracy of the official figures; they do not include anyone under 21, soldiers who have served in Northern Ireland, women or reservists. He believes that the government is in denial about the extent of this issue, noting, “This is a failure of the military covenant – and it’s avoidable.”

The Ministry of Defence deny the new figures saying that “The vast majority of personnel leaving the armed forces make a successful transition to civilian life and there is a wide range of help and support for all those that need it.”

I am concerned that these figures are only going to rise when the cuts are implemented, which will see the Army lose 20,000 regular soldiers by 2020. A spokeswoman for No Offence said “We believe the cuts will have a significant effect on prison numbers, as thousands of troops return to civvy street before they were anticipating.” Soldiers are not criminals. If they are properly supported on discharge the problems can surely be avoided.

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