Evil Or Sick?14 July 2009
I talked here recently about the people who are filling up our prisons – very few evil, a great number inadequate.
NSW Justice Health has just released a survey of NSW inmates, carried out last year, and it confirms so much of what I said – alcohol and drug problems, unemployment, dreadful family life, little education. About half of those currently incarcerated in NSW prisons were expelled from school.
But the most interesting fact for me was that more than half have suffered a serious head injury.
I have a good friend in England who works with male prisoners and my sister, who worked with young people who’d suffered head injuries, suggested to him that, as a matter of interest, he should ask his inmates if they’d ever had a head injury. He was stunned by how many had.
And we know a young man (16 or 17) who came off his bicycle and was taken to hospital where he received rather perfunctory medical attention because he was so aggressive and abusive to the staff. They assumed he was drunk. He was then arrested for his behaviour and died in police custody. There was no evidence of alcohol or drugs in his bloodstream BUT he had suffered a frontal lobe injury.
I have no idea whether anything can be done to stem the behaviour that apparently can follow such an injury (help me out here please, Judith). But if there is something, it looks to me like we should be doing it as a matter of urgency.
It would be dreadful to ignore such a statistic.