Identity, Transitions and Support: Processes of Desistance among Ex-Military Personnel in Custody

  Increasingly in Scottish criminal justice, ‘desistance’ is regarded as central to supporting a reduction and cessation in offending. This approach, which places the offender at the centre of their process of change and emphasises the importance of personal and social ‘assets’, is advocated by academics, practitioners and the Scottish Government (Maruna, 2001; McNeill 2004, 2006; McConnell, Carnie and Mehta, 2013). The process of desistance varies for different populations; a central tenet of the theory is that the journey is individualised. This research considers desistance amongst a significant yet often overlooked prison population, ex-Military personnel. Lord Ashcroft’s Transition Review (2014) specifically calls for a greater understanding of pathways to offending for veterans, who represent 8-13% of the prison population. The small body of existing research suggests exposure to violence/trauma, problematic transitions from military life, alcohol misuse, mental health, and military identities are contributory factors (Howard League 2011; Murray 2013; Wainwright et al 2016). Extant studies are primarily quantitative and with no contextual understanding of veterans’ experiences they offer very limited explanatory potential. With c20,000 new veterans becoming civilians each year, it is essential to gain a qualitative understanding of veterans’ experiences during and since leaving military service, and their pathways into prison. In-depth interviews with veterans currently serving a sentence in Scottish prisons and Veterans in Custody Support Officers, will explore issues of identity, social inclusion/exclusion, family and community support. This study ultimately seeks to develop a contextualised and nuanced understanding of what may help to support desistance for this group.

  • Start Date:

    1 January 2019

  • End Date:

    31 December 2019

  • Activity Type:

    Externally Funded Research

  • Funder:

    Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

  • Value:

    £9253

Project Team