This blog post is from Forward Assist. Click here to read more.

Ten years ago our understanding of veteran issues and the problems faced by those former service personnel involved with the Criminal Justice System increased enormously due to the forward thinking of ‘trailblazing’ individuals and organisations such as Harry Fletcher (NAPO) and Elfyn Llwyd MP, Nick Wood, Lord Ramsbotham, Trevor Philpott OBE and more recently several organisations specialising in Justice System Involved veterans. Promoting and representing the needs of one of the most marginalised and misunderstood groups in our society is in many ways a thankless task but a campaign that must nevertheless continue to be championed at all costs.

Individually and collectively the above mentioned, have changed the way we think about veterans involved with the CJS. What is really interesting is that none of the above were ever tasked with the responsibility of raising awareness or addressing this much neglected sub group via grass roots interventions . All came to it with a genuine desire to right a social injustice, and did so in their own time, at their own expense and with very little support or recognition. I for one would like to thank them for their contribution and selfless actions as their forward thinking has transformed many lives and reduced offending significantly.

Many veterans on release from prison (if they are lucky enough to have accommodation) may as a way of coping and surviving try to give themselves space in order to  ‘get their sh*t together’ (sic) Shutting the curtains and rarely going out during the day may be the only way they can take control over their lives. They may be experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress or adjustment difficulties. Societal disapproval, real or perceived, when coupled with a sense of failure and the lack of empathetic support services can have a negative emotional impact on the ‘returning soldier’, and aggravate a sense of disassociation, it can destroy connectedness with the civilian community and increase the chances of, self harm, self destructive behaviours’, increase the risk of offending and the likelihood of those on the ‘receiving end’ to become reclusive and addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

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