Skip to main content

Repairing Shattered Lives: Brain injury and its implications for criminal justice

Brain Injury is a major cause of death and disability in children and working age adults. Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) may occur for many reasons, but most commonly it is a result of trauma, infection, or stroke. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the biggest cause of injury. TBI may affect around 8.5% of the population during their lifetime. Prevalence of ABI among certain populations is much higher – such as those involved in contact sports, victims of domestic violence, and adolescent males who drink.

In recent years, repeated calls have been made for better means of meeting the mental and physical health needs of prison populations, not only to improve individual wellbeing, but also as a way to divert those with underlying health problems into appropriate services at multiple stages in the criminal justice process, to reduce reoffending among this ‘revolving doors’ population, and importantly to reduce costs.

Yet it is rare that brain injury is considered by criminal justice professionals when assessing the rehabilitative needs of an offender. Recent studies from the UK have shown that prevalence of TBI among prisoners is as high as 60%, and brain injury has been shown to be a condition that may increase the risk of offending. It is also a strong ‘marker’ for other key factors that indicate risk for offending. Brain injury is largely neglected in recent policy documents (see for example. This report provides an overview of developments in understanding of TBI in relation to crime, with a particular focus on its impact on developmental maturity.