Exploring Veterans' Pathways to Justice Involvement in Washington State
Thompson Tollefsbol, Elizabeth Anne
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The majority of veterans end their military service on good terms, suggesting a future unencumbered by the justice system. Yet veterans made up approximately 8 percent of the United States’ incarcerated population in 2011-2012, and many of them had at least one additional arrest prior to their incarceration. The life experiences that preceded justice involvement for military veterans is relatively unexplored, particularly those life experiences that have occurred outside their military service. Through the use of life history calendar interviews, this project explores the life experiences that preceded justice involvement of 18 military veterans, comparing males to females. Among both groups, adverse childhood experiences were common, including child abuse, neglect, and poverty. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and substance abuse were also shared features of interviews with both women and men, and several interviewees pointed to their military service as a primary instigator of their substance abuse problems. Males and females differed in some of their military service experiences, with most of the women citing Military Sexual Trauma as an influential piece of their service. Many women also discussed abusive relationships with intimate partners before, during, and after serving in the military, in line with criminological pathways research. The majority of participants’ justice-involvement was due to substance-related charges, indicating a need for more assistance to veterans struggling with unhealthy coping mechanisms.