One study using the Traumatic Brain Injury Questionnaire conducted among 998 incarcerated men in Minnesota found that 83 percent of them had sustained one or more head injuries during their lifetimes.
Gang members, in particular, were susceptible to these injuries.
If the damage to a defendant’s brain is so severe as to prevent culpability, there is no justice in remanding that person to the same custody with people without these conditions, particularly since the average prison isn’t well equipped to handle inmates who suffer from head trauma.
Traumatic brain injuries among people in the criminal justice system are a public health problem that deserves more attention than it has received.
Those questions occurred to me when I read about the latest twist in the case of Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, who had been convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who had been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
While on trial for Lloyd’s murder, Hernandez was charged with shooting and killing two other men, but was acquitted in 2017.
Days after that he killed himself in his prison cell.
A team of Boston University researchers was asked to examine Hernandez’s brain.
In short, some of the people with brain injuries who are living in America’s prisons probably wouldn’t be there if someone had bothered to diagnose them earlier.The remaining 46 use some test to reduce the culpability of accused individuals if something was so wrong with their brains at the time of the alleged crime that they couldn’t form the requisite intent. Twenty-five of them use what’s called the M’Naghten Rule, which requires the defendant to be able to know the difference between right and wrong in order to be morally and criminally responsible for his behavior.Twenty-one states use some form of the Model Penal Code Test, which examines whether the defendant could appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct and conform his or her behavior to the law.Their impairments may appear as indifference or uncooperative behavior when that isn’t the case.
Aware of the prevalence of brain injury among the prison population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that inmates be tested and screened for these injuries as they enter confinement. they have been convicted comes too late and ignores the American legal tradition that responsibility for a crime is reduced when a defendant’s cognition is muddled by injury or illness.Women convicted of violent crimes are far more likely to have sustained a pre-crime brain injury than women in the general population.