Special cells for jailed veterans
Brothers behind bars: Plan for special dorm for jailed veterans. Picture: The West Australian

War veterans in WA jails would be housed together in special wings under a plan before Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis that recognises they may be traumatised and could support each other.

Mr Francis, who flagged the idea in Parliament this week, said the concept of a "veterans-only dorm" was tried in the US to aid rehabilitation and specialised counselling.

The plan has been raised with Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon.

Mr Francis, a former Royal Australian Navy submariner, believed it would be beneficial for such prisoners, who often had mental health issues connected to their service, to be surrounded by those who also served on the front line.

It is estimated about one per cent of WA's 5000-strong jail muster are former servicemen.

"There are 1000 prisoners in Acacia. On that one per cent rule, there could be 10 veterans we could get together and allow them to interact and support each other," Mr Francis said.

"Obviously, we need to have mental health experts assess the rehabilitative benefit … If there is any then I think we should seize that opportunity."

Muscogee County Jail in Georgia opened a veterans' dormitory in 2012 to give former servicemen treatment and services they needed to move back to civilian life, including post-traumatic stress disorder treatment and counselling.

Mr Francis said if WA veterans had the same security rating, there was no reason the concept could not be explored.

"They've obviously committed a significant offence and you can't excuse that, but if you've got veterans who have served our country, in particular in traumatic circumstances, we probably have a greater obligation to ensure that if they've got mental health issues, we are doing everything we can to ensure they are rehabilitated," he said.

Mr Francis asked Mr McMahon, a former Special Air Service Regiment commanding officer, to conduct a "roll call" of veterans in jail because such data was not collected.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia, a navy diver before entering Parliament, did not object to the idea but said it would need specialist advice and research.

The Returned and Services League said it would be pleased to work with the Government in researching the proposal.

'Obviously, we need to have mental health experts assess the benefit.' "Corrective Services Minister *Joe Francis *

The West Australian

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