Screening Inmates for Brain Injuries 'Could Cut Suicides'

By Marshall, Christopher | Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), April 21, 2019 | Go to article overview

Screening Inmates for Brain Injuries 'Could Cut Suicides'


Marshall, Christopher, Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland)


Routinely screening prisoners for brain injuries could cut re-offending rates and reduce the number of suicides in custody, it has been claimed.

Experts believe Scotland could lead the world in understanding how past head trauma can bring individuals into contact with the criminal justice system.

Research published this year showed a quarter of inmates in Scotland's prisons have been hospitalised following a knock to the head at some point in their lives, an injury which could potentially lead to personality changes including increased aggression and poorer judgement.

Now neuropsychologists hope the introduction of routine screening could identify those at risk.

Tom McMillan, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at Glasgow University, said a short questionnaire could be introduced for those entering prison, with a tenminute screening assessment for those needing further investigation.

"The idea would be that when prisoners come into prison, they would get a short health interview and it would have a brief questionnaire about head injuries that would signpost to whether there needed to be a screening assessment or not," he said.

McMillan said that while something similar currently exists for those entering police custody, there is no equivalent in prison.

"I wouldn't want this to be seen as separate from the other problems prisoners have; we want to integrate this with other health-related issues. The overall purpose is to reduce the likelihood of prisoners going out and re-offending as there's a high rate of re-offending in the first year after release."

He added: "We're in a good position in Scotland to be one of the world leaders in this area."

Dr Ivan Pitman, who carried out a study on brain injuries at HMP Leeds on behalf of the Disabilities Trust, said young working-class men were not only the most likely to be in prison, but also one of the group's most likely to have sustained a head injury. …

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