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Sentencing: Ex-servicemen

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether veterans are identified as such on reception into custody; and what assistance his Department provides for such veterans. (302331)

Prisoners are routinely asked for details of their employment history as part of the prison induction process. Prison assessment procedures are being revised to include more specific questions to identify offenders who have served in the armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence works with third sector organisations and across Government to raise awareness among ex-service personnel of the help and support available to them and their families while they serve their sentence and prepare for release. Leaflets and posters have recently been distributed to prison establishments giving contact details of the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA), The Royal British Legion (TRBL), Soldiers Sailors Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help and Combat Stress and the types of support provided by these agencies. These include access to welfare officers; treatment for anxiety, post traumatic stress and sleep disorders; financial assistance; and help with rent, clothing, training, relocation and employment. The MoD funded Medical Assessment Programme is available for specialist military mental health advice for veterans in prison referred to them by prison medial staff. The programme has been extended to include reservists’ mental health for those who have deployed since 2003.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assistance veterans handed down a custodial sentence are given by the Prison Service while serving their sentence. (302333)

Posters, leaflets and guides are available to governors and prison officers to help them to signpost veterans to the range of support services provided by Government and voluntary organisations. This includes Ministry of Defence funded mental health services and voluntary organisations providing resettlement support to veterans and their families. Many Governors have chosen to appoint a local point of contact for co-ordinating and promoting the services. A new guide: “Veterans in Custody Support—A Guide” will shortly be distributed to all prison establishments. This will be backed by training and support in the form of networking events and visits to establishments, during the period January to March 2010.

To complement veteran specific services, the Prison Service has access to 102 mental health in reach teams and provides a portfolio of interventions, containing 14 offending behaviour programmes, six drug programmes five therapeutic communities and a dangerous and severe personality disorder programme.

Officials are currently matching Ministry of Justice data on prisoners with Ministry of Defence data on veterans to find both the scale and scope of the issue of veterans in custody. This data will allow us to examine paths into offending and consider whether more specific services need to be developed for veterans in prisons.