Do you have TBI? You are more likely to end up in prison.


Sustaining a traumatic brain injury will mean that you may suffer from many physical symptoms of the injury. Many of the symptoms are well known, ringing ears, headaches, and sensitivity to light and noise. More serious TBI can result in physical and cognitive impairments that are temporary or long lasting, even permanent. These may include memory loss, and difficulty walking, speaking, and doing fine motor skills.

What is less known by people is that TBI can result in emotional problems, that it can change someone’s personality. This combined with any cognitive decline can be a recipe for disaster. Acting inappropriately, and acting on impulse can become serious problems for some people. Why this happens we aren’t quite sure. Obviously, some symptoms of TBI are directly related to what area of the brain is injured. Others symptoms may correspond to the severity of the injury or the number of previous concussions sustained.

The CMAJ Open journal recently published an article “Association between traumatic brain injury and incarceration: a population-based cohort study”, which determined that there is evidence suggesting that “sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TNI) increases the risk of criminal justice system involvement, including incarceration”. The study goes on to explore the relationship between TBI and risk of being incarcerated in Canada among men and women.

The study concluded that sufferers of TBI have more than twice the rate of incarceration in Federal Prisons in Canada than those without TBI. Women were even more likely to be incarcerated with a 2.76 times greater likelihood of being imprisoned. This is a significant increase in risk. The inmates’ histories of TBI were obtained from their emergency and hospital records, and the incarceration history from the Federal government. It’s interesting to note that many instances of TBI may be have been missed if the individuals didn’t seek emergency care.

The Study authors concluded that, “Traumatic brain injury was associated with an increased risk of incarceration among men and women in Ontario. Our research highlights the importance of designing primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies to mitigate risk of TBI and incarceration in the population.”

Many individuals with TBI and repeated concussions aren’t getting the appropriate long term care they require. They fall between the cracks, not getting follow-up care. Many of the victims of TBI are living at the fringes of society even before they are injured, and the injury can push them to addiction and homelessness.  Experts conclude that it should be no surprise that unemployed, unhealthy individuals are getting into trouble with the law and are ending up in jail.  There are increasing calls from the medical and academic communities to develop better screening for TBI in prisons, and for appropriate treatments and accommodations to be made for victims of TBI.

The cost to society, and to the victims of TBI is large.

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