In the past week I’ve run across an unexpected convergence between my roles as a trial lawyer handling brain injury cases and as president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia.
Last Friday, I attended a program on criminal justice reform at the American Bar Association office in Washington, along with state government representatives. Among the dizzying array of statistics cited in the program was data on the huge percentage of state prisoners who have alcohol and drug addictions and/or mental illness.
The program presenters did not drill down in the data to focus on the prevalence of traumatic brain injury among convicts. However, in a study on "Traumatic Brain Injury Among Prisoners," the authors summarize a body of research finding that from 76% to 88% of prisoners have a history of traumatic brain injury, and that from 36% to 58% have had traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness.
The article also reports that Individuals with a history of TBI are much more likely to have problems with alcohol and drug abuse than people without TBI, as well as irritability or aggressiveness, including explosive outbursts, which can be set off by minimal provocation.
In efforts to divert a portion of prison populations to less expensive, community based correction and rehabilitation options, the prevalence of TBI is an important factor to recognize. If individuals are too dangerous to set free, they must still be locked up notwithstanding TBI history. However, there are probably many who could with some treatment do well in a less restrictive (and less expensive) form of correctional supervision. For sake of public safety, an individualized risk assessment should be used.
Parents of kids who have traumatic brain injuries should be aware that it is important to recognize the risk factors affecting the child’s long-term quality of life, and build in to a life care plan funds for psychological and tutoring services to prevent them from falling into behaviors that may lead to prison.
For example, in one recent case involving a preschool child who suffered a head injury when a large truck overturned on the family vehicle, we built into the settlement funds to flexibly provide psychological, tutoring and other services that would address learning disabilities and behavioral problems that could get him on the wrong path in life.
Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia whose practices focuses on representation of plaintiffs in high end personal injury and wrongful death cases. He is listed among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is President-elect of the 42,200 member State Bar of Georgia.