Head Injury and Criminal History Among Substance-Abusing Prisoners

Robert Walker, University of Kentucky
Matthew L. Hiller, University of Kentucky
Carl G. Leukefeld, University of Kentucky
Michele Staton, University of Kentucky

As part of the NIDA-funded Health Services Use by Chronic Rural Drug Abusers project, 661 male prisoners completed a face-to-face baseline interview with research staff before their parole. Criminal history information was abstracted from state official records databases. One-third of the sample (33%) received prison-based substance abuse treatment prior to their release. The majority of the prisoners (68%) had a history of closed-head injury, and about one-third (30%) of them had sustained more than one injury. The primary causes of these injuries included, auto accidents (32%), fights (28%), and accidents at work (22%). Head injury was significantly associated with more extensive criminal histories. Specifically, higher rates of property crime were evident among those with head injuries. For example, 37% of those who reported 1 injury and 47% of those reporting 2 or more injuries. Higher rates theft, criminal mischief, and wanton endangerment also were evident among those who reported 2 or more injuries. Substance abuse treatment for incarcerated substance users may need to be tailored to meet the needs of prisoners with histories of brain injury.

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Updated 05/20/2006