(NewsNation) — About one-third of America’s veterans have admitted to having been arrested at least one time in their lives, according to a preliminary report released this week by the Council on Criminal Justice.
The most recent Justice Department data shows that there are 181,500 veterans in American prisons and jails: about 8% of inmates incarcerated in state prisons and more than 5% of people in federal prisons were veterans.
“Most veterans in prison (69%) are serving time for violent crimes; nearly twice as many veterans as non-veterans are serving life sentences,” the report claimed.
Col. Jim Seward, the director of the Veterans Justice Commission, broke down the study’s findings and explained why it is important for Americans to find a better solution to supporting the country’s veterans.
“We ask our young men and women to fight and win our nation’s wars. We ask them to learn things that no young person should have to learn, and they execute those missions with success,” Seward said. “And then when their contract is over, we ask them to come home. We ask them to be normal, and some of them struggle. Many do just fine and lead our nation, lead our states and run our nation’s businesses. But some of our veterans are falling through the cracks.”
The report claims that the transition from military service to civilian life creates difficulties for veterans, and research has identified some risk factors that could influence engagement in criminal activity.
“Deployment-related trauma exposure and increased incidence of mental health and substance use disorders elevate veterans’ risk of making contact with the justice system,” the report said.
Seward explained that there is a combination of risk factors such as post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and the many deployments military personnel experience more frequently.
“We see that our post-9/11 veterans have higher rates of PTSD than previous cohorts, and veterans with multiple deployments are three times more likely to have PTSD,” Seward said.
He explained that the Council on Criminal Justice launched the Veterans Justice Commission to take a look at the research that exists so that a solution to better help the nation’s veterans can be discovered. Seward said there are online databases that could help law enforcement identify a veteran, but many are unreliable because few police departments and jails are using the platforms. Plus, he mentioned most veterans who are booked into custody don’t mention they are veterans.
“As you might imagine, veterans often feel shame. They feel like they’ve disgraced the uniform or their service branch. And they don’t want people to know that they’re a veteran,” Seward said.
The report explains that over the past few years, new organizations — such as “veterans treatment courts and veteran-only housing unites” — have emerged to help improve support for veterans, especially when they are transitioning back home from overseas.
However, a growing number of veterans don’t qualify for Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, even if they don’t or haven’t engaged in criminal behavior. The service members that have been incarcerated struggle with any re-enrollment in benefits.