No one has a good estimate of the number of US prison inmates who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, reported Vice. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the portion of the male incarcerated population with these kinds of problems somewhere in their past at a frustrating 25 to 87 percent. It is clear that the percentage is far higher than the roughly 8.5 percent of the general population that reports traumatic brain injury.
The proliferation of head trauma adds another mental health challenge to America's mess of a prison system. Depression and anxiety, substance abuse, violence and suicidal thoughts are all associated with head injuries. Cognitive impairment can also make prison life—rife with rules, jobs and social norms—more difficult, and the culture shock and byzantine prohibitions imposed by parole practically unbearable.
For these reasons, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania a $250,000 grant to screen for head trauma among men on track to be paroled from SCI Graterford, the idea being to smooth their transition back into the outside world. The prison, with more than 3,000 inmates, is about 35 miles from Philadelphia and releases men into the five counties around the city. The program is one of a few around the country aimed at tailoring reentry to the unique needs of a traditionally brain injury-prone population as some states and localities (and for now, at least) the federal government scale back incarceration.
What is known that head injuries often lead to more head injuries. After an initial one, a person is three times more likely to experience a second. After a second, he or she is eight times more likely to suffer a third.
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