Defying Stereotypes, Number Of Incarcerated Veterans In U.S. Drops

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Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno reenlists soldiers from Forward Operating Base Frontenac, Feb. 22, 2013. Odierno had a small group discussion and lunch with the soldiers following the ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashley Bell)

The number of military veterans in the country’s jails and prisons continues to drop, a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows.

It’s the first government report that includes significant numbers of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and the findings defy stereotypes that returning war veterans are prone to crime.

The data show that veterans are less likely to be behind bars than nonveterans. The study tracked an estimated 181,500 incarcerated veterans in 2011-2012, 99 percent of whom were male. During that period, veterans made up 8 percent of inmates in local jails and in state and federal prisons, excluding military facilities.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics began tracking the number of incarcerated veterans after the Vietnam War. In 1978, about 24 percent of prisoners were veterans. That number has fallen steadily since then, as the military switched from the draft to an all-volunteer force. In 1998, veterans had nearly the same incarceration rates as those who never served, and the number has been declining ever since.

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