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Prisoners Have Traumatic Brain Injury Rates Seven Times Higher Than Public

The Scientific American published a fascinating article last week that discussed a new angle to the role that traumatic brain injuries have on American life. Our Chicago brain injury lawyers have explained how the effects of these injuries are often well beyond anything that some local community members can imagine. Unlike other injuries which are entirely physical, brain problems often lead victims to experience a range of symptoms that are not easy for others to detect. A victim’s personality, motivation, memory, drive, urges, and other internal workings can all be affected by one of these injuries.

It is often hard for outsiders to understand the problem, because there may not be any outward physical signs of problems. However, the lack of physical manifestations of the injury in no way minimizes the seriousness of the harm. Lives continue to be ruined because of the hidden consequences of a traumatic brain injury.

For example, the Scientific American article found that the rate of brain injury is a shocking seven times higher among the prison population than the general public. The stats are crystal clear.

About 8.5% of adults in the United State have some history of traumatic brain injury while 2% are currently suffering from some sort of disability from a brain injury.

How does that compare to the prison population?

60% of all prisoners have had at least one traumatic brain injury (TBI), and some states have even higher rates. These figures may be underreported as well. Recent studies into the matter have revealed that many prisoners likely suffered a brain injury without ever knowing it. In certain circumstances (or households) a serious blow to the head often does not lead to a trip to the hospital. Instead, victims are just told to “shake it off.” Yet it is those very situations where permanent harm may arise that, down the road, may lead to behavior that lands one behind bars.

Experts looking at these stats indicate that they reveal without question that the effects of TBIs affect criminal behavior. The fact that the injury can alter one’s mood, behavior, and impulse control means that sufferers are more likely to engage in conduct that leads to prison, and, once there, stay behind bars for a good portion of their lives. The effects of these injuries make it difficult for rehabilitation programs to be as successful as possible-particularly if the effects of these injuries are fully taken into account. As one therapist involved in the effort explains, “If we don’t help individuals specifically who have significant brain injuries that have impacted their criminal behavior, then we’re missing an opportunity to short-circuit a cycle.”

Yet, as blog readers know, there is still much disagreement about the best ways to treat these problems. One issue is that each patient often responds dramatically differently to assistance. The same injury could affect two individuals in vastly different ways with one suffering no ill effects and the other having serious underlying problems. Doctors have yet to conclusively identify why that is. Figuring out the best way to treat (or prevent) an injury is therefore stymied by the uncertainty about the overall cause.

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