More needs to be done to support veterans who enter the criminal justice system

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A national review of support for veterans in the criminial justice system is under-way - but Catch22 has been delivering bespoke services to veterans in custody at HMP Doncaster since 2012.

16 July 2014

A national review of support for veterans in the criminal justice system is currently under-way, led by Stephen Phillips QC MP (Conservative). Justice Secretary Chris Grayling ordered the review into the rehabilitation needs of ex-armed services personnel convicted of criminal offences and given a custodial or community sentence in January this year. The review will seek to make recommendations for the way veterans are supported through structured alignment and governance of service providers. Peter Jones and Peter Cooper from HMP & YOI Doncaster met Stephen Phillips at the Veterans in the Criminal Justice conference at the end of last month, which was an opportunity to advocate the peer-led work delivered at Doncaster by Catch22 volunteer mentors.

Bespoke support for veterans in custody

Catch22 has been delivering bespoke services to veterans in custody (VIC) at HMP & YOI Doncaster since 2012 as part of a holistic package of offender management and re-settlement support. Direct routes into physical and mental health services are now being created, both within custody and in the community. SSAFA Forces charity and the Royal British Legion are also delivering specialist support services within the prison to provider VICs as well as their families with wider access to re-settlement funding opportunities and support networks.

Facilitated by Catch22 volunteer mentors who are former armed forces personnel, VIC peer support groups now offer a forum for VICs to come together and discuss common experiences and issues with like-minded peers. Volunteers include four former Doncaster prisoners (and veterans) who now positively contribute their time to supporting others. Mentors also work with Catch22 to identify and engage veterans at the prison induction and encourage them to join the support network. Peer groups often invite guest speakers to discuss topics that may affect veterans’ progression and success when under-going re-settlement into the community. This inclues celebrating Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Day, which are marked with social gatherings and services in the prison chapel.

More needs to be done

The conference was chaired by Simon West OBE. Simon is a veteran of the British Army who suffered severe burn injuries in the Falklands War. He acknowledged to delegates that offences committed by some VICs do not relate to any time spent serving in the armed forces. However, he acknowledged a growing recognition of the number of veterans serving custodial sentences as a consequence of issues relating to time spent on active service. The conference as a whole recognised that more needs to be done to re-settle military personnel prior to discharge as a pro-active way of minimising the risk of them being caught up in the criminal justice system.

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