VETERANS CHANGE PARTNERSHIP
AN ALTERNATIVE TO PRISON AND PROBATION FOR MILITARY VETERAN OFFENDERS
In 2000, the Military Covenant said –
“Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in the service of the Nation. In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.”
Today’s Covenant clearly acknowledges that the State has a ‘duty of care’ to members of its Armed Forces.
“When I left the Army in 2004 I had been diagnosed as suffering with depression. I left the main gate of my Regiment with my TV in one hand and my kit bag in the other, not knowing where I was going or what to do” – a former Army soldier who served 7 years in prison.
In order to deliver this work, the project will be dependent upon a blend of income streams from public, private and charitable sources. Initial start-up funding is currently being sought.
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.
If you would like to know more, take a look at our background briefing paper.