About half of teens between the ages of 16 and 18 suffered a
traumatic brain injury before being locked up in a New York City jail, a
new study finds.
Traumatic brain injuries can cause mood and behavior changes that vary depending on the nature of the injury, but often include
impulsiveness, emotional volatility, and slowed brain processing
speeds. These factors not only contribute the likelihood of individuals
ending up in jail; they also affect the proper treatment while there and
their likelihood of returning once released.
“Two of the most common features of TBI, emotional dysregulation [mood volatility]
and processing speed, may be linked to criminal justice involvement as
well as problems while in jail,” according to the study in the Journal
of Adolescent Health.
Ohio State University professor John D. Corrigan, a national expert on head injuries, told the Associated Press
that inmates with head injuries are more likely to break jailhouse
rules, engage in substance abuse, and have difficulty re-entering
society after release.
This study aimed to assess those rates among juveniles. Behavioral changes are particularly common among those who experience a TBI at a younger age,
according to previous studies of boxers. Screening of some 300 male
teens and 84 female teens entering New York City jails in 2012 found
that 50 percent of males and 49 percent of females reported at least one
severe head injury that led to an altered mental state — either loss of
consciousness or and/or post-traumatic amnesia. It does not assess
symptoms resulting from the injuries.
Researchers also found that more than a quarter of the inmate
participants were placed in solitary confinement while in jail and that
individuals were more likely to incur new injuries while in confinement,
raising the “concern that these environmental and personal variables
may interact to heighten risk new TBI while in jail.”
Head injuries can be incurred in any of a number of ways, but are
often associated with sports and military combat. An analysis by medical
experts at the National Academy of Sciences found that high school
athletes are even more likely to suffer concussions than those at the collegiate level. But in this study, the greatest number of injuries were caused by assaults.
Several researchers for the study work for the New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and intend as a result of this
research to educate adolescents and jail staff about head injuries.
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