Rocky Mountain MIRECC TBI Toolkit - MIRECC / CoE
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Rocky Mountain MIRECC TBI Toolkit

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Justice Involved Pages: Home | TBI & Incarceration | TBI-Related Problems |
Screening/Assessment | Management & Intervention | Resources



Jump to: Prevalence | Understanding the Link | TBI Identification as Prevention


There is emerging evidence that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a risk factor for criminal justice system involvement. The rate of traumatic brain injury has been estimated at 60% in adult offender populations and 30% in juvenile offenders versus approximately 8.5% in the general population. TBI has been shown to increase criminal behavior by youth and lead to their later involvement with law enforcement. Studies have also shown that about half of young offenders have a history of loss of consciousness, with repeated injuries being very common. In both adult and juvenile justice populations, TBI is associated with poorer outcomes, including reduced engagement in rehabilitation and higher rates of re-offending.

Understanding the Link

The link between TBI and incarceration is complex and influenced by a number of factors including severity of injury, number of injuries, age of injury and other biopsychosocial factors that influence how individuals cope with and recover from significant adverse events.

Shared risk factors
Some of the things that put people at risk for sustaining a TBI may also risky of incarceration (e.g., aggression, repeated exposure to violence, substance abuse and dependence, risk-taking behavior).
Shift in Trajectory
Sustaining a TBI, particularly a moderate to severe TBI, or repeated mild brain injuries can make it more difficult to regulate emotions, anticipate dangerous situations, and problem-solve, which may increase the likelihood of offending behavior. The extent to which TBI shifts a person’s trajectory is influenced by pre-existing factors, the nature of the injury, and circumstances post-injury.
Cumulative Disadvantage
Incarceration is often the result of, or reflects, a long-standing history of risky behaviors - some of which may be linked to problems and issues that have been undertreated or unrecognized.

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TBI Identification as Prevention

While it is not possible to tease out the direct effects of TBI on incarceration, being aware of TBI history and behavioral health issues may help identify strategies to reduce problematic behaviors within correctional settings, improving engagement in rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. Greater awareness and management of TBI-related issues in individuals involved in the juvenile justice system is especially important as it may help identify at-risk adolescents and facilitate early and intensive interventions to prevent recidivism and future involvement with the criminal justice system.

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