Research Review On Traumatic Brain Injury In The Criminal Justice System




Liang, Andi

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The criminal justice system seeks to establish social structure, mitigate crime, and sanction those who break the law. The system is used to delineate the crime, mark the offender, and designate appropriate punishment to the offender. However, this system would only be fair if the offender has full control and comprehensibility over their actions, which oftentimes is not the case. Scientific evidence has determined how morality, free will, and the different facets of one’s personality is to some extent dictated by the electric and chemical signals firing in our brain. It has also been determined how our capacity for free will decreases and decision-making skills become impaired when our brain is damaged, a downstream consequence of which might be criminal tendencies. If this were to happen, the criminal justice system would have to apportion the blame to both the individual and the biological factors that make up the foundation of their actions. Some cases of this happening have convoluted the concept of criminal liability and the role of the individual in committing the crime. The rate of individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), resulting from damage to the brain, is much higher in prison and jail populations than in the United State’s general population. Given the high prevalence of TBI in incarcerated populations, it is important to address how these individuals are affected, charged, and treated. This thesis will attempt to deepen the reader’s knowledge of why criminals with TBI act the way they do, how they might be influenced by symptoms of their brain injury, as well as how the criminal justice system can best approach indictment, support, and treatment for offenders with history of TBI. Part One will provide a general concept of TBI by going over general terminology, definition, and symptoms before establishing TBI as a causative factor of violence. Part Two will analyze different case studies on individuals who underwent a change post-TBI geared more towards violence and discuss the extent of their culpability if they had committed a crime as well as the different ways they were impacted by their brain injury. Part Three will delve into the criminal justice system by going over consequences of TBI in correction facilitates, obstacles towards proper identification and rehabilitation of victims of TBI, as well as steps forward. Part Four will delineate basic criminal proceedings, legal paradigms for the mentally affected, use of neuroscientific evidence in criminal trials, and lastly, establish standards to divide the responsible from the non-responsible. The issue of how to approach offenders with brain damage is a difficult one, given how a clear casual relationship between neurological trauma and criminality has yet to be established. However, hopefully by the end of this thesis, the reader will recognize a definite correlation between the two and have a better understanding of the moral, physical, and legal issues surrounding criminals with TBI.



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