NEW YORK — About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City’s jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that’s the latest in a growing body of research documenting head trauma among young offenders.
Experts say the findings, published last week in The Journal of Adolescent Health, could lead to better training for correction officers on how to deal with the possible symptoms of such trauma, which include problems with impulse control and decision-making.
“You need to train the correction officers to understand brain injuries so that when somebody may be acting rude or answering back or forgetting what they’re supposed to do, it’s not a sign of maladaptive misbehavior or disrespect, it’s a sign of a brain injury,” said Wayne Gordon, a brain injury expert at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
The peer-reviewed study was based on medical brain injury questionnaires given to 300 boys and 84 girls inside the nation’s second-largest jail system in 2012.
The study found nearly 50 percent of both boys and girls reported traumatic brain injuries that resulted in a loss of consciousness, amnesia or both. And they said 55 percent of those injuries were caused by assaults.
Previous studies show the rate of traumatic brain injury among adolescents who aren’t incarcerated is about 15 to 30 percent, said Dr. Homer Venters, an assistant health commissioner in New York City and one of the study’s authors.