Justice Secretary Chris Grayling / Image courtesy www.telegraph.co.uk

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Prisons in England and Wales are starting out the New Year with a new policy that honors veteran service personnel inmates. Upon reviewing just how the criminal justice system deals with veteran prisoners, the English government has established a new approach that recognizes and supports veteran prisoners upon entry and release, and provides them with more opportunity for rehabilitation.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is a strong advocate of the measure because he believes the government is indebted to individuals who have served their country– even if they made a mistake that landed them in prison. Grayling considers the new procedure an act of gratitude towards the few ex-forces personnel that ended up in the criminal justice system. 

The government plans to educate prisons on how to rehabilitate ex-service men and women throughout their time spent behind bars.

Mr. Graying told the BBC Radio 5 Live that the goal is to find the veterans that end up going to prison, investigate what they are in for, and address the problems that brought them to prison to prevent them from returning.

Grayling is making a sincere effort to get ex-service people’s lives back on track — retuning them to society with a new outlook. The justice secretary believes singling these individuals out and giving them special care is demonstrating true justice because these men and women have been through traumatic and demanding experiences protecting their country. He emphasizes the veteran population is a minute minority in prison and most ex-servicemen manage to avoid getting involved with the criminal justice system despite the hardships they have endured.

During an interview with the BBC Radio 5 Live, former inmate Mark Johnson, founder of charity User Voice, a London based recidivism prevention movement, expressed his opposition for giving former servicemen and women special care.

The main reason Mr. Johnson disapproves of the government’s new policy for veteran prisoners is inmates could be experiencing identical struggles related to the stresses of prison environment and their past, such as post traumatic stress —- yet because one inmate served in the armed forces, he or she will have an opportunity for treatment.   

Former Royal Marine Trevor Philpott, founder of the Veterans Change Partnership — a project focused on helping offenders who are former servicemen or women – believes more is needed to be done to help people adjust to civilian life when they leave the forces as a prevention measure from going to prison in the first place.

Grayling on the other hand, intensely endorses ex-military offenders have a chance to change their lives before returning to society. He is passionately committed to supporting the families of those who were willing to give their lives for their country, but took a wrong turn that landed them in prison. Grayling believes these sacrificing individuals deserve a second chance to become vital citizens.  

Should the U.S. government consider adopting the U.K.’s effort to acknowledge veteran offender’s rights — or do we still have further to go with rehabilitating the general prison population before our country is ready to address prisoners who were dedicated to serving our country — or is an inmate an inmate whether they served their country or not and all should be treated the same.

Perhaps the American prison system has too much on their plate already.  Or maybe this is a good place to start.    

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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