BPS members at Justice Committee hearing in Scotland

Reoffending rates in Scotland could be reduced if brain injuries among prisoners are recognised sooner, psychologists are argued at a Justice Committee hearing this week.

According to Dr Jean McFarlane, joint chair of the British Psychological Society's Division of Neuropsychology, research has shown people are more likely to reoffend if they have a traumatic brain injury.

As a result, she believes more needs to be done to identify high-risk individuals when they are being screened in prison, as this would prevent crime from being committed and reduce the number of reconvictions.

Dr McFarlane presented her argument in front of the Justice Committee which heard evidence from academics and psychologists about how offenders with traumatic brain injuries can be identified.

Research by Professor Huw Williams of the University of Exeter has already demonstrated that about 60 per cent of male prisoners have experienced head injuries at some point in the past.

He said this is connected with earlier, more violent and persistent offending, which means it is "vital that we screen and manage such problems in offenders".

Professor Williams added that picking up on brain injuries more effectively could steer children and young people "away from a future of crime".

Earlier this year the British Psychological Society held a reception at the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of the increased risk of reoffending behaviour following injury to the head and brain. This was organised by the BPS Divisions of Neuropsychology and Forensic Psychology and the BPS Scottish Branch.

The event demonstrated how psychology services intervene to reduce reoffending behaviour in those with head injury with a call for more support for research, funding for pilot services aimed at screening and intervention, and policy change. Read the article here

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