The Disabilities Trust makes self-help tools available for prisoners with a brain injury - as concern grows that prolonged isolation is causing significant anxiety for offenders

The Disabilities Trust has created in-cell self-help tools for prisoners with acquired brain injury (ABI) - in response to concerns that they are at increased risk of mental health issues during the extended isolation in prisons.

Research undertaken by The Disabilities Trust found higher rates of anxiety and depression for prisoners with an ABI, and there are concerns that this is being further exacerbated by prisoners being confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day, and without access to specialist support or usual visits from friends and family.

Research has shown that roughly half of all prisoners may have experienced a brain injury. The Disabilities Trust has contributed to this research and found 47% of men at HMP Leeds and 64% of women at HMP/YOI Drake Hall reported histories which indicated they had sustained a brain injury.

To support those now at increased risk, The Disabilities Trust has created a series of self-help interventions aimed at reducing the impact of the increased isolation. These include a series of In-cell Neurorehabilitation Intervention Packs to address some of the cognitive, behavioural, emotional and psychological symptoms of brain injury, which may be heightened during this time. In-cell intervention strategies are one tool to help reduce the impact of isolation by providing activity and distraction.

Jocelyn Gaynor, Head of Foundation at The Disabilities Trust, said: “Coronavirus presents an unprecedented challenge nationally and also for the prison system. In order to ensure the safety of prisoners and prison staff, prisons have increasingly restricted regimes, suspended all visits from friends and family and reduced all non-essential staff from entering the premises. Whilst these measures are all efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep people safe, there are significant risks to prisoner’s mental health from the increased lockdown.

“Isolation is widely recognised to be a significant burden on mental health and with the increasing restrictions imposed due to coronavirus, prisoner’s experience of isolation will be further compounded. An acquired brain injury can cause significant challenges regulating emotions and developing coping strategies and therefore in the current climate of increased isolation, The Disabilities Trust are concerned that prisoners with an ABI will suffer the most and place increased demands on the reduced prison staff. It is therefore critical that prisoners with an ABI are identified so that prison staff can recognise those who will struggle the most and may present the most challenging behaviour. It is vital that these packs reach affected prisoners - and those leaving prison early - to support them in these challenging times.”

The nine individual packs for problems such as anxiety, depression, memory, anger, impulsivity and fatigue packs will be distributed with HMP Cardiff and made available nationally to all prisons and other criminal justice settings. Each document contains a summary of the difficulty faced after brain injury and then five-ten interventions that the user can try to implement to reduce this. Each pack also contains a log so that the user can fill in what they tried and whether it worked for them.

The Disabilities Trust is also working to produce some brief awareness raising training videos to support prison and probation staff to understand the potential increased impacts of restrictions on those with an acquired brain injury.

Brain injury is referred to as a ‘hidden’ disability, as many of the non-physical symptoms can be overlooked and undiagnosed. The Trust has developed these packs to support men and women struggling with some of these ‘hidden’ impacts including poor memory, lack of concentration, impulsivity and psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The Disabilities Trust has worked hard for six years to provide brain injury support for both men and women in prisons across England and Wales and the current pandemic requires care providers to innovate and adapt to provide the support needed to help prisons and prison staff manage the impact.

The Disabilities Trust is making these intervention packs available for free to all institutions across the criminal justice system to enable men and women both in prisons and under the supervision of probation to navigate the impacts of their brain injury at this increasingly challenging time.

These packs are free to download below:

Brain Injury and Memory In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Anger In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Fatigue In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Attention In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Motivation In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Depression In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Impulsivity In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Anxiety In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury and Sleep In Cell Neurorehabilitation Pack

Brain Injury Week Planner x4

11 Brain Injury Pocket To-Do List x12

Intervention Pack Letter to Institutions

For further information please contact: Joss Gaynor, Head of Foundation, 01444 237 268, Jocelyn.gaynor@thedtgroup.org