Study finds head injuries could be linked to offending

Prisoners who have suffered serious head injuries committed more offences and could be less likely to succeed in rehabilitation programmes, a study has found.

The research involving 600 inmates at HMP Leeds also found those with serious injuries were more likely to have committed violent offences.

A survey found nearly half had suffered a serious blow to the head leading to loss of consciousness or leaving them dazed or confused.

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More than two thirds had suffered their first injury before their first offence. Inmates with a serious head injury committed nearly 20 per cent more offences and 60 per cent had committed a violent offence compared to 38 per cent who had not been injured.

Those who had more frequent or serious head injuries had more problems with memory, aggression, and decision taking.

Researchers said people who had suffered injuries could face difficulties undertaking rehabilitation programmes in prison which relied on people processing information, concentrating and memory.

Results of a pilot programme involving a specialist brain injury link worker working with injured prisoners in Leeds to help them address their behaviour were being evaluated but early feedback suggested it had been positive.

The Disabilities Trust Foundation, which carried out the research, said it believed better support for those with head injuries could prevent or reduce offending. It said brain injury screening could be included as part of plans to put in place more mental health staff in policy custody suites and courts.

Its head Deborah Fortescue said: “It is clear that the criminal justice system needs to provide tailored rehabilitation and support for offenders with a traumatic brain injury; at the very minimum, we need to train professionals in order to help them successfully rehabilitate offenders with a brain injury.”

Susan Kennedy, Governor at HMP Leeds, said: “The brain injury link worker service adds real value to us at HMP Leeds by providing tailored support to those with some of the most complex needs.”