The Bureau of Justice Statistics released in March of 2021 a report on the number of veterans in prisons using data from 2016.
The 2016 BJS report shows in Table 3 that male veterans who were incarcerated for a violent sexual offense made up 26.4% of male veterans in state prisons and 7.2% of male veterans in federal prisons. Male non-veterans who were incarcerated for a violent sexual offense made up 11.7% of male non-veterans in state prisons and 1.2% of male non-veterans in federal prisons.
A larger percentage of incarcerated male veterans were in prison for violent crimes than were male non-veterans. The big question is: Why? Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research in this area, as the U. S. is a country that is more reactive than proactive.
Many of these men have fought in wars, enduring circumstances and experiences that most of us, as non-veterans, cannot comprehend. I once heard a veteran speak who had just returned from fighting in Iraq. There were situations that he described graphically to his audience that I will never be able to get out of my head – daily situations that were nothing less than pure hell. Then, our country expects these men and women to return to the U. S. and reintegrate back into society with very little support.
According to a 2013 Huffpost blog, research has shown that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), both disorders that returning veterans from wars can suffer, have been linked to an increased risk of offending.
People who volunteer for the military have higher odds of becoming incarcerated than people who do not join the military (Culp, Youstin, Englander, & Lynch, 2013).
Some states, including Florida, have opened up dormitories in their prisons just for veterans, but other than that, very little is being done to help veterans in the form of prevention. We, as citizens of the U. S., continue to feel the consequences of being a reactive country rather than a proactive one, where mass incarceration is considered the solution by many of our leaders.