Criminal justice system professionals

Research indicates that more than half of the prison population may have sustained a brain injury.

Professionals working in the criminal justice system are highly likely to come into contact with survivors of a brain injury. Improving staff awareness and understanding of brain injury will enhance the quality of help provided by the criminal justice system to this vulnerable group.

Headway’s Justice Project aims to raise awareness and improve understanding of brain injury in the criminal justice systems across the UK. We have delivered training to thousands of professionals, including police, custody staff, appropriate adults, liaison and diversion practitioners, criminal lawyers, prosecutors, prison and probation staff.

The training combines specialist brain injury knowledge and understanding delivered by Headway, providing participants with an understanding of the often-hidden consequences of brain injury. The training demonstrates how a brain injury may affect a person’s journey through the criminal justice system and provides strategies and quick tips for working effectively with survivors.

To supplement our training, we have produced a number of resources designed specifically for staff working across the criminal justice system. Please download these from the related resources section below.

Find out more about Headway's training for:

If you work in the criminal justice system, you can also find out how to become a Brain Injury Champion.

Brain injury training for police

Brain injury survivors may come into contact with the police, either as victims or having been   arrested. This can be because of their disabilities not being recognised or understood or as a result of the individual’s difficulties managing or controlling their behaviour and emotions.

Being a victim or being arrested can be a traumatic time for a survivor of a brain injury. They may be confused, afraid and emotional about the situation they find themselves in. They may also experience severe anxiety or anger management issues from being confronted, left alone, being in a noisy environment or a confined space.

It is vital that police are provided with training to help them identify and support brain injury survivors appropriately.

Headway provides training to police services to provide staff and officers with a greater awareness and understanding of brain injury and its effects, helping to ensure survivors are identified at the earliest opportunity upon contact with the criminal justice system. The training also features a section on the Headway Brain Injury Identity Card scheme.

Headway has produced a 2-page briefing for police officers and staff providing an overview of brain injury and its effects, plus more information on the support provided through the Brain Injury Identity Card scheme. Please download this from the related resources section.

Quotes from police officers who have participated in the training:

“I will ensure to keep an eye out for brain injury. I won't assume someone is drunk or under the influence.”
“It's useful to have an understanding of the effects and how it could come across in custody.”
“It will enable me to think/assess about a detained person’s behaviour in a bit more detail”

Brain injury training for prison staff

Research conducted in prisons in the UK and internationally indicate an over-representation of brain injury survivors in the offending population. The consequences of brain injury, which are very often hidden, can have a detrimental impact on a person’s ability to adjust to prison life, understand or remember rules and regulations, and engage with or benefit from rehabilitation programmes. Without adequate identification and support, survivors of brain injury are more likely to re-offend.

Headway provides training to prison staff to help them spot the signs of brain injury, understand the impact this may have on those in prison and implement basic strategies to engage more effectively with survivors. The training encourages staff to support survivors they are working with to apply for the Headway Brain Injury Identity Card to help ensure those affected receive the support they need both in prison and upon release.

Headway has produced a new booklet on Understanding Brain Injury in the Criminal Justice System for prison staff. The booklet has been designed to provide prison staff with an overview of brain injury and its effects and ways in which they can support a survivor in prison and access further support.

A shorter briefing paper for prison staff is also available.

Please download these from the related resources section below.

“The training was useful to understand the impacts of brain injury and how they manifest themselves - signs and symptoms…
the Brain injury ID card is excellent, it would be very useful if all who suffered with it could be encouraged to have one.”
“The training was relevant to the prison setting and I could identify with certain individuals”
“They were really great presenters and really knowledgeable - the presentation has really improved my understanding and I feel confident going back to my colleagues to cascade my learning”

Brain injury training for probation staff

Staff working in the probation service are also highly likely to encounter people who have had a brain injury.

The many and varied consequences of brain injury are likely to have a significant impact on a person’s engagement with the probation service. From initial contact with probation staff in court to offender management in prison to community supervision, a brain injury can have serious implications for a person’s interactions with probation and experience of the criminal justice system. Brain injury survivors are more likely to become stuck in the revolving door of re-offending without identification and the appropriate support.

Headway provides training to probation staff to assist them in more easily identifying survivors of brain injury and understanding the impact this may have on offenders they are supporting with basic strategies and tips to encourage more effective engagement. The training also emphasises the importance of ensuring information regarding a known or suspected brain injury is included within pre-sentence reports, in accordance with guidance in the Sentencing Council guidelines.

The training encourages staff to be aware of the Headway Brain Injury Identity Card , its benefits and, where possible, to assist with applications.

The charity has also produced a new booklet on Understanding Brain Injury in the Criminal Justice System for probation staff. The booklet provides probation staff with an understanding of brain injury, its effects and tips staff may find helpful when working with survivors. 

A shorter briefing paper for probation staff is also available.

Please download these from the related resources section below.

Quotes from those who have participated in the training:

“All information presented was relevant and presented in a way that could be understood across the board regardless of individuals experiences of supporting/working with individuals with ABI.”
“Excellent presentation, I most definitely have a better insight on how to approach and support an individual with an ABI.”
“Very informative and has highlighted the need to identify any possible brain injury as part of a pre-sentence report interview”
“It was the most interesting training I've attended in a long time”

Brain injury champions

Brain Injury Champion - Headway the brain injury associationHeadway is recruiting brain injury champions across the criminal justice system who undertake our training. The purpose of this role is to provide a point of contact for anyone to seek information and signposting about brain injury, its effects and where to get help.

If you are interested in learning more about this role and undertaking training to become a brain injury champion, please get in touch with Headway’s Justice Project Manager on