Criminal law is full of stereotypes. Many people believe that there is a “criminal type.” And that anyone who fits that description, must be guilty of the crimes they are accused. In the 19th century, the study of the shapes of human heads called phrenology, which included measurements of the skull. It was believed that these shapes determined character.
And some thought that they could determine those who were mentally deficient and who had criminal minds. This line of thought has been debunked today, but some vestiges of this reasoning remain.
The headline in this NPR new story suggests that veterans are stereotyped as having a greater propensity for criminal activity than the public. Perhaps such a stereotype has developed out of the media presentations of a veteran, suffering from PTSD or other combat-inflicted conditions, who returns to the U.S. and winds up committing a variety of crimes.
The latest report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that this is not the case and that the numbers of veterans incarcerated have fallen in recent years. During the period covered by the study, about 181,000 veterans were in state and federal jails and prisons.
However, some of these veterans do suffer the ill-effects of war and they have a higher rate of mental health issues than the civilian population. And it is not surprising that combat veterans, in particular, tend to have more mental health issues.
One factor that is attributed to helping reduce the number of veterans incarcerated is the development of courts specially set up to help veterans receive treatment for drug abuse and PTSD issue and avoid being warehoused in jail or prison.
Source: npr.com, “Defying Stereotypes, Number Of Incarcerated Veterans In U.S. Drops,” Quil Lawrence, December 7, 2015