Research finds significant head injury in women prisoners li
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New research has found that 78% of women prisoners have a history of significant head injury—most of which occurred in the context of domestic abuse that often lasted over periods of several years.

This study by the Lancet Psychiatry aimed to investigate relationships among head injury, comorbidities, disability, and offending in women in prison.

In this cross-sectional study, women were recruited from four prisons. Women were included if they were aged older than 16 years, fluent in English, able to participate in the face-to-face assessment and provide informed consent, and did not have a severe acute disorder of cognition or communication. Head injury, cognition, disability, mental health, and history of abuse and problematic substance use were assessed by interview. Comparisons were made between women with and without a history of significant head injury. Researchers recruited 109 of the 355 women in these prisons.

--Significant head injury (SHI) was found in 85 of 109 women, of whom 34 had associated disability. Repeat head injury was reported in 71 of the 85 women with SHI and, in most cases, this resulted from domestic abuse that had occurred over many years.

--Women with a history of SHI were significantly more likely to have a history of violent offenses than those without a history of SHI.

--This effect remained significant after adjusting for current factors, including comorbidities associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and was no longer statistically significant after adjusting for historical factors, such as abuse as a child or adult.

--Women with SHI had spent longer in prison than women without SHI after adjustment for current or historical risk factors.

It is recognized that women in prison are vulnerable because of histories of abuse and problematic substance use; however, the history of SHI needs to be included when developing criminal justice policy, interventions to reduce mental health morbidity, and assessment and management of the risk of violent offending.