They were punched in the head in fights or shot, knocked around as children, beaten by spouses or struck by cars. Almost every inmate in the downtown Denver jail’s high-risk unit has a traumatic brain injury, so many that what began as a one-time university service learning project has grown into a new therapy program spreading to other jails, the Denver Post reports. Neurological researchers from the University of Denver expected to find an above-average prevalence of brain trauma at the Downtown Detention Center. The results were high enough to shock them.
Ninety-six percent of inmates had a traumatic brain injury. That’s significantly higher than national statistics showing that from 67 percent to 80 percent of inmates in jails and prisons have a traumatic brain injury, far higher than the estimated 6 percent to 8.5 percent of the general population. The results of the Denver screenings were higher in part because researchers screened inmates kept in a high-risk unit of the jail, the unit for people who are considered a risk to themselves or others. More than 90 percent had mental illnesses, and just as many had substance-abuse problems. Add those two risk factors to the fact that 100 percent of those screened had criminal histories. The combination of criminal behavior, mental illness, substance abuse and traumatic brain injury is what clinical psychology professor Kim Gorgens called the “superfecta.”