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Doctor’s Log - Star Date 22112019

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics ..."

Phoenix & Stats

Serving in the Armed Forces is an important event that shapes the lives of those who serve and is, for many, a positive experience. Research has shown that it brings structure to daily life, provides training and education, assists in the development of resilience and on leaving the service facilitates employment opportunities.

Studies have identified that service life, in particular combat experience, is associated with an increased risk for alcohol and substance abuse, the development of mental health problems together with anti-social behaviours. However, it remains unclear if serving in the military places veterans at an elevated risk for involvement in the criminal justice system.

Many studies exploring the association between military participation and criminal behaviour, lack consistency, and do not consider other specific variables of military life such as branch type, mode of discharge and rank on leaving. Hence it remains unclear what aspects of military life either mitigate or aggravate the risk of offending behaviour.

Phoenix, veteran specific mentoring service, introduced in 2015 provides support and assistance during the final 15-months of sentencing and continues for a period of no less than 12-month following release. Mentors are themselves veterans who have undergone formal training and are subject to ongoing professional development. The programme was designed to reduce re-offending rates in the veteran population.

In order to provide a clearer picture of the association between military service and the criminal justice system outcomes we collected a significant range of variables, thereby avoiding the dichotomous yes/no questions which fail to acknowledge specific components of service life.

Our results underwent further analysis at the University of Portsmouth and were subjected to further scrutiny by the Ministry of Justice Research Laboratory.

  • Approximately 3,500 veterans are involved in the criminal justice system, but the precise number is unknown
  • Veterans are characteristically different to the general prison population
  • Early Service Leavers (those who have served < 4 years) are at an increased risk of offending
  • Longer serving personnel are either vulnerable prisoners or have committed more serious crimes hence are given longer sentences
  • The cost per prison place per year varies, but is in the region of £39K
  • The cost of reoffending is in the region of £200K per individual
  • A little over 130 veterans per year have been assigned to Phoenix
  • The majority of offences committed are violence related with alcohol strongly implicated
  • Proven reoffending rates are between 10% - 12%
  • Of those who reoffended only 3% committed similar offences
  • Just under 2% were subject to recall for breach of license conditions (as opposed to re-offending)
  • Veterans have fewer lifetime arrests than non-veterans
  • 1% of those assigned to Phoenix are now deceased - (natural causes & death by suicide)

"Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Dr Nicholas Murdoch