Study: Nearly all high-risk Denver inmates had brain trauma
DENVER — Nearly every inmate in a high-risk unit at the downtown Denver jail had suffered a brain injury from a traumatic incident in their life — a far higher rate than the national average for inmates, researchers found.
A University of Denver team found 96 percent of the Denver inmates sustained the injury in a fight, shooting, car wreck or some other trauma, The Denver Post reported Monday.
National statistics indicate 67 to 80 percent of jail and prison inmates have a traumatic brain injury. For the general population, the rate is 6 to 8.5 percent.
High-risk inmates differ from the general jail population because they’re considered a danger to themselves and others. More than 90 percent of inmates in the Denver high-risk unit had mental illnesses and substance-abuse problems.
“They are tricky to treat, but with some easy tweaks and more surveillance, I think we could keep them afloat better,” said Kim Gorgens, an associate professor in the University of Denver graduate school of psychology.
Gorgens’ students began interviewing Denver inmates in 2013 and completed a second round of screenings in the summer of 2014.
Working with the Colorado Brain Injury Program, the researchers got two grants totaling about $1.5 million to develop a jail-based treatment program.
The therapy focuses on helping inmates understand why it is hard for them to follow directions and why it’s important to act immediately when officers ask them to put their hands up or come out of a cell.
They are encouraged to keep calendars, follow a routine and write things down.
The program also helps deputies understand the inmates, said Jennifer Gafford, a staff psychologist for the Denver County Sheriff’s Department.
“The flip side is to help officers understand maybe they are not being obstinate, maybe it’s that they don’t understand,” Gafford said.
The program also tries to connect released inmates with brain trauma therapists in the community, Gafford said.
University psychology students are expanding screenings to 13 other jails along the Front Range, including those in Boulder and Larimer counties and a handful of juvenile detention centers.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com
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