Combat stress can be a factor in subsequent offending, what can we do for veterans who come into our custody?
Of the many questions our custody sergeants ask detainees when they’re brought into our custody blocks, the ‘have you ever been a member of the armed forces?’ stands out as one of the stranger.
We cover medical background, religious needs, even dietary requirements, but the question about military service is the one that usually gets the most quizzical response from the person stood before the desk.
The reason we ask is that sadly from time to time we do get prisoners who come into custody for reasons connected directly or indirectly to their time spent serving the country.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in particular may appear to be a factor in their offending and whilst it can’t excuse criminal activity, it does at the very least provide some context for understanding why a someone may be committing offences.
It’s in situations where PTSD offers some context for an offence that we look to intervene and address the root cause in an attempt to prevent future offending.
Charities such as Combat Stress can be contacted and referrals made so that there’s some support available when it appears that a person’s behaviour may have been influenced by PTSD.
This isn’t only beneficial to the prisoner but also to surrounding family who will sometimes refer in their statements to problems experienced following a tour or discharge from the services.
It’s a difficult situation as again, trauma related to combat stress can’t negate responsibility for offending or the damage caused to the victims of crime.
At the same time, having experiences of war few outside the military could ever understand is invariably going to leave mental scars with long lasting consequences.
Police action may address the short term problems associated when veterans are unfortunate enough to fall through the cracks, working with partner agencies and charities though is how we seek to get them back on their feet.
It makes sense for the prisoners, it makes sense for victims too.