Charlie Buttrey

April 3, 2021

We have known now for sometime that brain injuries can cause dramatic changes in one’s personality. Apparently, they can also increase criminogenic behavior.

According to an article in this week’s Economist magazine (I get the hard-copy, so you’ll have to trust me on this), while 8.5% of the general population has suffered from at least one brain injury (most common causes: falls, traffic accidents and fights), between 50% and 80% of prisoners and those on parole in the United States have sustained a brain injury. Similar results have been found elsewhere.  A review of research in America, Australia and Europe puts the rate at about 46%. A study in the U.K. put the figure at 65% in British prisons, and a New Zealand study estimated the rate to be 50% in that country. Researchers suspect that the numbers are higher still in poorer countries, where traffic accidents and violence are more common.

A Swedish study determined that people who were hospitalized with a head injury were three times more likely to commit a violent offense than the general population (and twice as likely as their siblings). People with mental health problems prior to a head injury are four to seven times more likely to commit a crime thereafter. And not only do people with brain injuries tend to commit more crimes, the crimes tend to be more violent, and the perpetrators are more likely to reoffend upon release from incarceration.

A court in New Zealand is trying a novel approach to addressing this phenomenon, and now screens defendants for brain injuries and modifies its procedures to take the injury into account.  Not only might such early intervention assist in stopping the problem before it mushrooms, it just might save money as well: A British report estimates that the cost of traumatic brain injury in a 15-year-old who goes on to offend is nearly $500,000

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