Veterans Study Compares U.S. and Britain, Says Soldiers Less Likely to Land in Jail

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A new report comparing veterans in prison in the United States and England has found startling similarities.

While veterans in both countries are less likely to go to jail in the first place, those that do are more likely to be older, and more likely to be serving time for seriously violent or sexual offenses. (See photos of the world’s most humane prison.)

The Howard League for Penal Reform, the oldest penal reform charity in Britain, released the initial findings of its cross-national report Leave No Veteran Behind this morning. It examines what Britain’s military can learn from the American military’s approach to treating veterans after they leave the services. Among its findings:

Veterans are  less likely to be imprisoned. In the U.S., adult male veterans are half as likely to end up in jail compared to their civilian counterparts. In England and Wales, civilians are 43% more likely to go to prison than veterans are. (See photos of Colorado’s Prison Valley).

Veterans serving time are older. Sixty-five percent of American veterans in prison are 55 or older (compared to 17% of non-veteran prisoners). In England and Wales, 29% are over 55 (compared to 9% of the general prison population).

Veterans in prison are  more likely to be serving sentences for violent crime. In state penitentiaries, 57% of veterans are classified as “violent offenders”; 47% of non-veteran prisoners are. In the U.K., 33% of veterans  are in prison for “violence against the person”; 29% per cent of  the non-veteran prisoners are. (Read TIME’s article “Britain’s Prisons: Budgeting Behind Bars?”)

Veterans in jail are  more likely to be serving sentences for sexual misconduct. Twenty-three per cent of veterans are in U.S. prisons for sexual offenses, compared to 9% of civilian  prisoners.  In England and Wales,  25% of veterans in prison are serving time for sexual offences, compared to 19% of the civilian prison population.

There is a large discrepancy in reported Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rates in the U.S. and U.K. Roughly 20% of American veterans report PTSD, compared with just four percent of their British counterparts. (See photos of an army town coping with PTSD.)

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League, believes many factors contribute to veterans’ offending. “The military traditionally finds recruits from disadvantaged communities and many will return to those communities on leaving the services,” she said in a statement. “Homelessness, mental health problems and substance misuse are all significant causes of offending in both the United States and England and Wales.” (Read TIME’s article “Sentenced to Serving the Good Life in Norway.”)