Half Of Jailed NYC Youth Have Traumatic Brain Injuries, Study Finds

A news study finds that in New York City, roughly half of recently-jailed youths jails have a traumatic brain injury, prompting experts to call for a serious reevaluation of how law enforcement officers deal with delinquent youth. As traumatic brain injuries are also correlated with greater difficulty of reintegrating with society after release from jail, the figure suggests something of a vicious cycle for incarcerated teenagers. Around 55 percent of those surveyed reported receiving their brain injuries from assaults.

While the study is unclear on how many of these injuries took place before, as opposed to during, the actual arrests, neither prospect is particularly encouraging. While it’s obviously a problem if police are chronically assaulting teenagers during arrests, it’s equally problematic if officers are hauling young people to prison without taking into account possible cognitive deficiencies that may have contributed to the arrests themselves.

"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 of New York's Mount Sinai Hospital.

In the study of 16-18-year-olds, 50 percent of males surveyed reported having traumatic brain injuries, as did 49 percent of females. By comparison, traumatic brain injuries are only present in 15-30 percent of non-incarcerated youth in the same age range.