Brain injury and the criminal justice system

Headway’s Justice Programme aims to raise awareness and improve understanding of brain injury in the criminal justice systems around the UK.

The following studies have revealed a high prevalence rate of brain injury in offending institutions in the UK and around the world, highlighting the need for Headway to take action to ensure there is a greater understanding of brain injury within the UK’s criminal justice systems:

  • Hospitalised Head Injury (HHI) was found in 24.7% (1,080/4,374) of prisoners and was significantly more prevalent than found in the matched general population sample (McMillan et al, 2019)

  • 64% of female offenders at HMP/YOI Drake Hall reported a history indicative of brain injury (The Disabilities Trust, 2019)

  • The estimated prevalence of TBI in the offender population is 60.25% (Shiroma, Fergyson and Pickelsimer, 2010)

  • Another study found that over 60% of male offenders reported having had a head injury. 48% reported mild TBIs, 16% had moderate to severe (Williams et al, 2010)

  • TBI with loss of consciousness was reported by 46% of a sample of young offenders (Williams, Tonks and Mewse, 2010)

  • A meta-analysis found that 30% of juvenile offenders have sustained a previous brain injury, and that juvenile offenders are more likely to have a TBI compared to controls (Farrer, Frost and Hedges, 2013)

  • 82% of offenders had a history of at least one TBI; 65% had a history of TBI with a loss of consciousness (Schofield et al, 2006)

  • The Centre for Mental Health estimates that around 60% of adult offenders (those aged 18+) and 30% of young offenders (those aged under 18) have a history of TBI, often involving multiple injuries which evidence shows to have a cumulative impact (Michael Parsonage, 2016)

  • In fully adjusted models, men and women who had sustained a TBI were about 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than men and women who had not sustained a TBI (Kathryn E. McIsaac et al, 2016)