According to "Traumatic Brain Injury and the US Criminal Justice System", published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, October, 2011:
"The overall estimate of TBI prevalence in the adult offender population is approximately 60%. Unlike certain infectious diseases, like HIV, hepatitis and TB, screening at intake or within correctional facilities for TBI is not a routine standard of care. Even if TBI is identified, inmates often lack access to care and services that would help them manage symptoms and successfully re-enter society . . . .
Inmates with TBI may experience:
ongoing symptoms which can lead to disciplinary and other problems during incarceration
Memory and attention deficits - two common symptoms of TBI - that often lead to behavior viewed as defiance or laziness
Irritability, impulsivity or anger - which can lead to aggressive behavior/punishment and the risk of subsequent head injuries
- Mental health problems, such as severe depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts" (Traumatic Brain Injury and the US Criminal Justice System, US Department of Health and Human Services, October, 2011)
Instructors from the Brain Injury Association of PA presented the following additional information about undiagnosed brain injury in the recent Brain Injury training co-sponsored by the Lancaster County RMO and the Brain Injury Association of PA.
lack of good communication skills
behavioral and personality problems and disorders
poor social skills
People with brain injury may
drop out of school
be unable to obtain or maintain a job
be poor risk takers, resulting in incarceration in adult and juvenile correctional systems
The HELPS Brain Injury Screening Tool, developed by M. Picard, D. Scarisbrick and R. Paluck, and updated by the Michigan Department of Community Health, can help to determine whether a person may have a brain injury. Professionals working with a client can ask a client whether they have experienced any of the following:
H - Hit your head or been hit on the head?
E - Emergency room?
L - Lose consciousness or dazed/confused?
P - Problems in your daily life?
S - Sickness, disease of the central nervous system?
In our next article, we'll explore how TBI problems can be addressed for the clients we serve and some resources to help.