The [not so] hidden army in UK prisons
I was told once that when people leave the armed forces they have three choices. They either manage the transition well and thrive, they become taxi drivers, or they end up in prison. I have never seen any definitive evidence of this but having spent my formative years as a ‘forces brat’ I found it quite believable.
We’ve all seen the films where the new recruits are broken down and then built up again for the betterment of the squadron. We’ve seen the programmes where bad boys are put through their paces to help turn their lives around. And by and large it works. It works because these individuals are part of a shared experience, coming together to work towards a shared purpose in a structured regime that provides for their needs i.e. accommodation and food, but also provides a level of comradeship that many may not have experienced outside of the barracks.
Our service men and women see things that the average person could not even comprehend. I’ve seen friends parents come back from war zones a fraction of the person they were before they left. I watched parents leave the forces and struggle to adjust to in the civvie world. And many fail.
With so much of their social capital tied to the regiments they served in and the people they served with, there is a substantial job at hand and one that reminds me of the discussions being had around the appeal of gangs and the close knit family they provide for its members.
But knowing that there are around 20,000 of these veterans in the criminal justice system is truly appalling. No matter your view of the forces, many of these people have dedicated large parts of their lives to protecting you and me and those less able to protect themselves.
I have to agree with Dominic Grieve; it is a ‘disgrace that so many who served their country are in jail.’ What is it about civvie society that is failing these veterans, and not providing the support and structure that many come to depend on while in the Army, Navy or RAF?