A Common Link Among Female Criminals: Brain Injury

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By Sarah Thomas | July 29, 2014 3:46 PM EST

To spread awareness about a health problem that has been neglected a research was carried out in a prison in Ontario, Canada. According to the research 40 percent of the women prisoners suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Reuters
Women prisoners from the Ancon prison wait to participate in a dance competition inside the Maximum Security prison of Chorrillos in Lima, July 25, 2014. The National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) organized a folk dance competition with four women's prisons in Lima during the celebrations of the Independence Day in Peru. Peruvians celebrate Independence Day on July 28. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo (PERU - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY)

Evidence showed homelessness, substance abuse, risky behaviour and incarceration were negative health outcomes of TBI associated with blows to the head.

"TBIs are common, and most are not associated with offending behaviors," said Dr. Angela Colantonio, the lead author on the report and a senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. "However, the question is whether early intervention and support for those living with the effects of brain injury could prevent offending behavior or recidivism. More research is needed on this."

According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a blow or jolt to the head can cause TBI. It could be a mild confusion leading to a spell of short unconsciousness or a serious injury that can lead to a long period of unconsciousness.

Male and female prisoners in 4 Ontario prisons were studied by the Canadian team. The study showed 50 percent of the male prisoners had a history of TBI which was a cause for concern. Dr. Colantonio said she was shocked at the rate among the female prisoners. Women had suffered TBI before committing their first crime. As children the female inmates with TBI were more likely than the male to have suffered sexual or physical abuse.

 "There has not been a lot of attention on women at risk for TBI, for example, from intimate partner violence, even though research has shown that the majority of hits are to the head," said Colantonio.

Dr. Geoff Fernie, the institute director at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, said according to the research changes should be made regarding the treatment of female criminals. However he had not worked on the research.

"Now that we have identified this as an issue, we need to work with community organizations and correctional systems to prevent inappropriate incarceration of females with traumatic brain injury, and to provide treatment to those who are incarcerated so they have a better chance when they return to society," Dr. Fernie said.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Women prisoners from the Ancon prison wait to participate in a dance competition inside the Maximum Security prison of Chorrillos in Lima, July 25, 2014. The National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) organized a folk dance competition with four women's prisons in Lima during the celebrations of the Independence Day in Peru. Peruvians celebrate Independence Day on July 28. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo (PERU - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY)
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