Roughly 24,000 British veterans returning from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan are now battling the UK’s criminal justice system and constituting nine percent of the prison population, according to reports.
The U.K.’s Telegraph reported the findings of three separate studies sponsored by the National Association of Probation Officers and other veteran support groups.
Research from 2001 to 2004 along with the case histories of 74 veterans showed that the majority of violent offenses committed by veterans is fueled by drug and alcohol abuse, the result of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder.
With 8,000 veterans currently in custody, concerned citizens argue that the Ministry of Defense is doing too little to screen recently discharged servicemen and women for early signs of mental illness.
The Ministry says it utilizes “robust systems” to treat and prevent PTSD with pre- and post-deployment screenings, and subsequent access to counseling.
However, NAPO cites the studies’ results as evidence that the Ministry’s efforts fall short of adequate support for transition to civilian life.
The Royal British Legion and ex-servicemen acknowledged a “real drinking culture” in the armed forces.
According to those interviewed, physical and psychological war wounds, continued heavy drinking and a loss of troop camaraderie often lead to loneliness, stress disorders, violence and imprisonment.
“Thousands of war veterans locked in British prisons”
The Telegraph (U.K.), September 1, 2008