The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates the portion of male inmates with traumatic brain injuries somewhere in their past at what Vice reports is “a frustrating 25 to 87 percent.” It is clear that the percentage is far higher than the roughly 8.5 percent of the general population that reports such problems. The proliferation of head trauma adds another mental health challenge to the prison system. Depression and anxiety, substance abuse, violence and suicidal thoughts are all associated with head injuries.
Vice says that, “Cognitive impairment can also make prison life—rife with rules, jobs and social norms—more difficult, and the culture shock and byzantine prohibitions imposed by parole practically unbearable.” The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania $250,000 to screen for head trauma among men on track to be paroled from Graterford prison to smooth their transition back into the outside world. The prison, with 3,000 inmates, is about 35 miles from Philadelphia and releases men into the five counties around the city. The program is one of a few in the U.S. aimed at tailoring reentry to the unique needs of a traditionally brain injury-prone population.