Veterans Change Partnership
Although support for military veterans is improving, regrettably an increasing number are entering the justice system. Official HMI of Prisons estimates that the numbers in prison have now reached 7% (circa 6,000) with individual prisons reporting 14+% -
The MoJ and MoD suggests 5,800 are on probation and community orders; however, NAPO suggests as many as 12,500. Whichever figs are accurate, former military veterans represent the largest occupational group within our justice system; this surely indicates that something is wrong and that the Covenant has more to achieve.
A report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, entitled ‘Leaving Forces Life’ concluded that, despite there being a great deal more help available via service charities, individuals are still falling through the net and ending up in the Justice System, often years after discharge. Issues stemming from post-service dysfunction, mental illness, poverty, addictions and marital breakdown are all contributing. None can be seen as being addressed within the ‘spirit’ of the Military Covenant.
An alternative to custody and probation for military veteran offenders is urgently needed. To that end, a new and innovative project is currently being developed. Entitled ‘The Veterans Change Partnership’, the partnership will deliver intensive and purposeful programmes of support, rehabilitation, personal development, skills training and peer mentoring into accommodation, further training and work, along with programmes of family support.
The project ha been welcomed by the Minister for Prisons, Rt Hon Mike Penning MP and many other leading personalities. Having secured the support of Devon's local authorities, Prisons, Police, JCP and NHS, efforts are now being made to access the necessary funding, including the option of crowd funding and applying to the Cabinet Office and MoJ.
As part of this process, it is also being proposed that a 'pilot' veterans court be established in Plymouth especially designed to deal with and address the needs of veteran offenders and their families.
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