RD332 - 2008 Report on the Incidence of Traumatic Brain Injury in Offender Populations

Executive Summary:
Item 381c of the 2008 Virginia Acts of Assembly directed the Secretary of Public Safety to “…analyze the incidence of traumatic brain injury in the adult and juvenile state responsible and local responsible offender populations.” The incidence, management, and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in offender populations is of concern as reports have surfaced that suggest the possibility of significant rates of TBI in this population. If this is the case, targeted interventions to identify and treat the sequelae of TBI may result in better management of incarcerated individuals and reduced recidivism.

As a result of interest in this area, representatives of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Department of Corrections (DOC), and the Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) met with delegates and other interested parties beginning in early 2006. Subsequently, representatives from the Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center TBI Model System (VCU) collaborated with DJJ and developed a grant proposal to study the incidence of TBI in Virginia’s juvenile justice system and to develop a model for best practices in this area. Unfortunately, this grant was not funded during the 2008 year funding cycle.

In response to the Acts of Assembly directive, the Director of Department of Juvenile Justice, Barry Green, convened a workgroup that met over the summer of 2008. Members of this workgroup included representatives from DOC, DJJ, DRS, VCU, and the TBI advocate community. This workgroup reviewed relevant professional literature in the area, collected and analyzed data from DOC and DJJ, and surveyed other states regarding their experience in this area.

The results of this effort suggest that: (1) the available data are limited and do not allow us to establish with certainty the prevalence of TBI in Virginia’s offender populations; however, the available data do suggest that a significant portion of the incarcerated population may have a history that suggests the possibility of TBI. (2) while a few other states have begun to investigate the extent of this problem in their offender populations, there does not appear to be reliable data regarding incidence rates or a best practices model. (3) DOC, DJJ, and DRS do not have the necessary internal resources or expertise to conduct the research to accurately describe the scope of the problem or to develop a best practices model for these populations.

Given these findings, the workgroup’s recommendation is that funding be secured for research to establish the scope of the problem and to develop a best practices model for these populations. Furthermore, the best place to begin this effort appears to be with the population of juveniles committed to Virginia’s juvenile correctional centers. To advance this goal, the Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Commissioner of the Department of Rehabilitative Services met with the Commonwealth Neurotrauma Initiative Board to ask that they prioritize research in this area during the 2009 funding cycle.