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Veterans returning from war zones face copious challenges upon re-entering their communities and many encounter the criminal justice system in some capacity. CJCJ’s Senior Research Fellow, William (Bud) Brown conducts research on this issue. In his recent paper, published in CJCJ’s Justice Policy Journal (JPJ) earlier this year, Dr. Brown conducted a study finding that veterans with PTSD and alcohol dependency related to combat are more likely to be impacted by the criminal justice system. He suggests that if the needs of young veterans returning from war are not addressed, there will be an increase in the number of incarcerated veterans across the country. 

Here’s part of the abstract: 

…As they begin their process of reintegrating back into the civilian culture the term veteran begins to develop meaning for many veterans. That meaning is influenced by factors such as interpersonal relationships, education, and employment/​unemployment experiences. Depending upon the level of influence that the Military Total Institution has had on the veteran, which includes the veteran’s combat experiences, many veterans find themselves confronted with mental health issues, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is an artifact of her or his combat experiences. A significant number of veterans with PTSD symptoms have turned to alcohol as a form of self-medication. Many veterans with PTSD say that alcohol reduces nightmares and difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep (DIMS). In many instances the experiences of war, PTSD, alcohol, combined with lethargic civilian attitudes of the problems veterans confront provides the ingredients of a recipe designed to accelerate the probability of increased veteran incarceration. This article addresses the aforementioned issues by analyzing the data collected during a study of 162 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans during a 15-month period, and spanning across 16 states. The data strongly suggest that veterans with PTSD and alcohol use/​dependency issues related to combat increase the probability of veteran criminal justice entanglements.” 

You can read the full paper here: From War Zones to Jail: Veteran Reintegration Problems, JPJ, Vol. 8. No. 1, Spring 2011

Want to know more about Dr. Brown?

William B. Brown is an Associate Professor, with a PhD in Sociology, in the Department of Criminal Justice at Western Oregon University. He is also the Executive Director of The Bunker Project, a program that assists Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with alcohol, drug, posttraumatic stress disorder, and legal problems. He has been recognized by the courts in numerous criminal cases involving veteran defendants as an expert in the area of the military total institution and its effect on veterans re-entering the civilian culture, and the impact of military training and experiences relative to instantaneous responses by veterans charged with violent offenses. Dr. Brown is a combat veteran who served as an infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam, served as a Drill Sergeant, eventually received an Infantry Commission, and served as a platoon leader in B Company 75th Rangers. When the Vietnam War ended he resigned his commission. His previous research includes prisoner re-entry, youth gangs, and sentencing processes.” (p.3)

His earlier, 2008 publication on this issue, Another Emerging Storm”: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with PTSD in the Criminal Justice System (JPJ, Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall 2008), challenged researchers and service providers to being preparation to support veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.