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New process to rehabilitate the child focuses on brain injury

A recent study shows that about 50 percent of older teens who are entering an East Coast city's jails suffer some kind of traumatic brain injuries before they are incarcerated. The research endeavor determined that a vast number of 16- to 18-year-old defendants who were entering the region's correctional facilities were suffering from the aftereffects of serious head trauma. This finding could have significant implications for strategies used to rehabilitate the child through Kansas juvenile court proceedings, according to some experts.

Experts say that the results of the study could lead to better care for teens within the juvenile law system. That is, correctional officers could receive additional training to deal with juvenile offenders with a history of brain injury. Many of those with traumatic brain injury suffer from ongoing behavioral problems that include limited impulse control and poor decision-making skills.

In some cases, correctional officers interpret certain behaviors as antagonistic, when they are really just a result of TBI symptoms. Some teens have a hard time remembering what they are supposed to be doing while they are in custody, for example. Others may be belligerent and rude, which could indicate the presence of an undiagnosed brain injury.

Inmates of all ages are far more likely to struggle with reentry into society after spending time in lockup. Teenagers are entering into a dangerous cycle when they are sent to a correctional institution. They may be more likely to suffer from substance abuse, and those with TBI are also more prone to breaking rules while they are in custody. Estimates show that nearly two in three adult inmates suffered from a brain injury.

This new finding may help jurisdictions provide more responsive care and rehabilitative services for teens accused of juvenile crimes. These defendants may not be intentionally acting out; in fact, they may be suffering the side effects of a TBI. This revelation could have long-term consequences for the way youngsters are treated within the Kansas juvenile law system.

Source: KHQ Q6, "Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury" Jake Pearson, Associated Press, Apr. 18, 2014

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