Veterans blame Army for massed ranks of ex-soldiers in UK jails

The British Army has come under fire from veterans’ groups and senior officers for failing to help ex-servicemen find jobs after they leave the forces.

The news follows a report by the National Association of Probation Officers last week, which found almost 24,000 veterans from the Army, RAF and Navy are currently in prison, on parole or serving community punishment orders. The association said the fact that ex-servicemen make up 9% of the UK prison population indicates a failure by the military to address mental health problems of leavers.

Tracey Johnson, a spokesperson for Veterans In Prison, said the figures highlighted a failure, by the Army in particular, to properly rehabilitate personnel and prepare them for civilian employment.

“It’s mostly ex-servicemen from the Army suffering post-traumatic stress disorder who spiral out of control, lose their jobs and families, and wind up in prison,” she said. “And there aren’t enough resources available to help rehabilitate them.

“The Army goes into conflict zones and fights face-to-face combat, which is why it’s down to the Army that these statistics are so high.”

Governments figures show the cost for jailed ex-servicemen is around £215m annually.

A high-ranking military HR officer told Personnel Today the ratio of former Army personnel that failed to readjust in prison was “far higher” than in regular service. Currently, more than half of the 200,000 members of the British Armed Forces are enrolled in the Army.

He said: “When you actually boil it down it’s predominantly a problem with the Army. The nature of each service is quite different, but this is something we’re pushing to understand better, so that we can better prepare people for transferring successfully into society.”

However, the Ministry of Defence disagreed that any one force had more rehabilitation problems than another. When asked if the Army was worse at supporting its employees into civilian employment than the RAF or Navy, brigadier Archibald Miller-Bakewell, the director for resettlement, stressed “no”. He added: “It’s down to each individual’s own circumstance, and where they can get career counselling that helps them to identify a suitable follow-on career.

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