War veterans make up the largest group of people in prisons and the problem is likely to get worse after a decade of conflict, an inquiry warns.
The Howard League for Penal Reform said most of the prisoners were older than the average criminal when they first offended – which was about 10 years after leaving the forces. This is when mental health problems are thought most likely to surface.
Sir John Nutting QC, chairman of the inquiry, said he expected the problem to peak because it was now 10 years since British forces were first committed to Afghanistan, followed by Iraq.
The inquiry found there were about 3,000 former service personnel in jail, or 3.5 per cent of the prison population in England and Wales.
Sir John called for those leaving military service to be screened for post-traumatic stress disorder. Police should be made more aware of the problem and the Veterans in Custody scheme should be expanded.