The Criminal Justice Acquired Brain Injury Interest Group (CJABIIG) has slammed the proposals for failing to address the link between health problems – such as brain injuries – and offending behaviour.
Justice secretary Liz Truss unveiled a white paper in November detailing £1.3bn investment in new prisons over the next five years, and plans for 2,100 extra officers, more drug tests and autonomy for governors.
CJABIIG has now published its own report outlining the shortcomings of the proposals and setting out how the government should rethink prison reforms to better factor in brain injuries and other causes of neurodisability.
It warns that no reference is made in the government’s report to screening for diagnosis of neurodisability, or to the disproportionate rates of brain injury among offenders.
Studies suggest the prevalence of traumatic brain injury could be as high as 60% in the adult prison population.
While rising levels of violence and poor self-control are addressed in the government report, CJABIIG says no thought has been given to their causes, such as acquired brain injury.
The group calls for clearer assessment of what brought an individual into the criminal justice system in the first place. It also warns that, in terms of life after release, there is no recognition in the report that tasks such as timekeeping, focus and money management can be more challenging for prisoners with an undiagnosed, unsupported brain injury.
The group suggests a clear treatment plan for each individual, covering their transition to the community and aftercare arrangements.
It also points to the potential savings that could be made by better handling of prison brain injuries. It cites a Disabilities Trust outcome study in which an estimated £80,000 saving was made by sending a prisoner to brain injury rehab rather than prison – although it accepts that this is not appropriate in every case.
CJABIIG’s report says: “While the Prison Safety and Reform white paper addresses some fundamental changes necessary for improving the prison system, it is a missed opportunity on a number of levels.
“There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that the health issues prisoners face, including brain injury, have a significant and lasting effect on offending and re-offending. It is disappointing that the proposals fall well short of providing both a thorough and proactive solution for each issue, and a truly realisable blueprint for change.”
CJABIIG was formed in 2011 to raise awareness of the link between o ending behaviour and acquired brain injury in the criminal justice system.
Founding members include Warwick and Essex universities, St Andrew’s Healthcare, the Child Brain Injury Trust, the UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum and the Disabilities Trust.