Brain Injury and Offending

In the second wave of our #ThroughOUREyes campaign - which aims to spark debate and change the narrative for people with complex and challenging disabilities - we will be focusing on the work of the Foundationand the particular impact of living with a brain injury in criminal justice settings - and our innovative partnership work to increase support in the system.

We will use this week to see through the lens of people with a brain injury in prison, and back in their communities, our Linkworkers and criminal justice professionals. We will also release a powerful new film, as part of our new Ask, Understand and Adapt trainingfor health and criminal justice professionals. This will be released along with a new brain injury pathway tool which was developed with support from Devon and Cornwall police and a service audit of our current Brain Injury Linkworker service in South Wales.

Why focus on brain injury in the Criminal Justice System?

Whilst approximately 12% of the population are living with a brain injury, often seen as a hidden disability, both international research and findings from The Disabilities Trust at HMP Leeds and HMP/YOI Drake Hall have highlighted the disproportionately high prevalence of brain injuries within the criminal justice system.

Although the behavioural, cognitive and emotional symptoms of brain injury can be overlooked, they can be potentially life changing, with implications for the individual, their friends and families and the professionals who support them. Symptoms, which can often be difficult to detect or misinterpreted as ‘challenging’ or ‘difficult’ behaviour can include, but are not limited to:

  • poor memory
  • lack of concentration or inability to multitask
  • slowness to process information
  • poor impulse
  • poor initiation
  • fatigue or difficulty falling asleep
  • problems regulating emotions (including inhibiting aggression)
  • lack of insight (i.e. where a person might not realise they have a problem, including the effect their brain injury symptoms have on them daily).

As part of our Brain Injury Linkworker (BIL) service, after screening men using The Trust’s Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI), personalised and therapeutic interventions to manage the health, cognitive, behavioural and emotional consequences of brain injury are offered by a Linkworker.

Drawing on The Disabilities Trust’s 30 years of experience of providing neurorehabilitation in both hospital and community settings, our Ask, Understand and Adapt training is designed to drive awareness and adapt behaviour to improve outcomes for men and women in the justice system. To date, we have provided Brain Injury Awareness Training to over 2,000 criminal justice professionals and intensive support to 500 offenders, with exciting new partnerships to be announced as part of this second wave of our #ThroughOUReyes campaign.

Policy Changes:

Having supported men and women with a brain injury in the justice system, we have campaigned alongside key figures such as Chris Bryant MP (Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Acquired Brain Injury) and UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum (UKABIF) to call for:

  • Screening for brain injury within the justice system
  • Brain injury awareness training for staff
  • Support similar to our BIL service to meet the needs of those with a brain injury

Our work was also acknowledged by HMPPS, with guidance on how we can help those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) within the secure estate published in 2019.

Our brain injury screening, support and awareness training also mirrors the recommendations of the recently published Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorates’ ‘Neurodiversity in the Criminal Justice System’ review. Within this report, which we contributed evidence to, the importance of recognising and supporting neurodiverse conditions, such as brain injury echoes our Ask, Understand and Adapt model and we stand ready to support the Ministry of Justice to ensure the needs of these individuals are met across the justice system.

What next?

In response to our historical research, the results of our service audit in South Wales, and in light of the recommendations featured in the recently published ‘Neurodiversity in the Criminal Justice System’ report, we will continue to campaign to ensure the needs of those with brain injury in the CJS are met.

Stay tuned throughout this week to find out more about these exciting new developments.

To find out more about our services or commission our training please email:

Resources and publications:

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Brain Injury and Offending Evidence Sheet

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Service Audit South Wales

Mark Crane (Lead Psychologist) comments on brain injury in the criminal justice system

11 August
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HMPPS Wales Lead Psychologist, Mark Crane comments on brain injury in the justice system

HMPPS Wales' Lead Psychologist, Mark Crane comments on brain injury in Wales

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Brain Injury Pathway Toolkit