The Sunday Times reports (04 April 2010) that [name omitted] returned from Iraq with a distinguished war record — and ended up in prison. The newspaper says that our jails are swollen with former soldiers: why can’t they stay out of trouble? The figures, previously mentioned on the BAFF website, remain controversial.

From The Sunday Times feature by Ed Caesar:

... We send too many ex-servicemen to prison. How many, nobody is sure. A recent study by the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) estimated that there may be as many as 8,500 ex-servicemen in prison out of a total prison population of 92,000. Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the organisation, believes that around 8% of Britons in jail are from the forces. The vast majority of these offenders are from the army, and a large majority of the ex-army are from the infantry. But other groups have taken issue with Napo’s findings. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence conducted their own survey, which they published in January, concluding that only 3% of the prison population were former members of the military — around 2,500 veterans in total.

Who to believe? Fletcher brought attention to the issue after hearing anecdotal evidence about the problem. He conducted his own inquiries via email with probation officers. On the basis of his calculations (supported by the fact that America’s ex-service prison population is around 9%), Fletcher believes the government has underplayed the numbers.

Certainly, the issue was striking enough for the Howard League for Penal Reform to begin an inquiry. “We began on the basis of the Napo figure, which has now been cast into doubt,” says Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League. “But I suspect the truth is that the figure is somewhere between 3% and 8%. And that still makes servicemen by far the largest occupational group in prison. That is well worth investigating.” ...