In Australia and abroad people with brain injury experience a range of problems including poor judgement; difficulty interpreting social settings; poor memory, concentration, decision-making and problem-solving; and behavioural issues including impulsivity and anger outbursts (Brown & Kelly, 2012). These issues can increase the risk of CJS contact, and further disadvantage people once engaged with the CJS. Compared to the general population, people with a brain injury have higher rates of contact with police, more court appearances and more convictions, increased periods of incarceration, and are more likely to be victims of crime.

Brain injury creates multiple challenges for people in custody. Poor understandings of brain injury in the CJS means appropriate responses and supports are lacking, resulting in higher incarceration rates, increased infractions and vulnerability in prison, and increased risk of homelessness upon release (Baldry et al., 2013; Schofield, 2006; Shiroma et al., 2010). Issues with unstable housing, poor decision-making and impulsive behaviour lead to cyclic criminality and increased likelihood of recidivism compared with offenders without brain injury (Ray & Richardson, 2017; Townsend, Hammill and White, 2015).

Women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are particularly vulnerable within the CJS (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2008). Despite the high prevalence of brain injury in the CJS throughout Australia, processes for identifying and understanding prisoners with brain injury are lacking. Historically, CJS assessment and management processes have reflected poor understandings of brain injury, leading to inappropriate responses and ultimately contributing to recidivism and prison overcrowding (O’Rourke, et al., 2018; Yuhasz, 2013). The need for systematic procedures and effective tools to identify brain injury in the CJS have been called for, with a particular emphasis on the importance of culturally safe assessment tools (COAG, 2016; Dingwall et al., 2010; Sofronoff, 2016).

Synapse are engaged with a number of projects aiming to address some of the inequities faced by people with brain injury in the CJS.

Related Projects

The Guddi Way

The Guddi Way Screen is a culturally appropriate screening process to identify brain injury and complex disability. Once a brain injury has been identified, it may enable a pathway to appropriate support via the NDIS. For some people, this may the first time in their lives that a brain injury has been identified and that they have the opportunity to receive support.

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Murri Court Pilot Project

In 2018-2019 Synapse partnered with the Brisbane Murri Court to complete a pilot project in response to the need for culturally safe screening for brain injury and complex disability in the Murri Court system.

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Women Exiting the Corrections System

In 2018 Synapse partnered with the NSW Department of Justice and Guthrie House, a not-for-profit transitional service for women exiting the prison system, to support women who may have a brain injury.

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Assessing the Disability Needs of Indigenous Prisoners

Synapse is working with Griffith University to review the processes for assessing the disability needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander prisoners.

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Related Services

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Assessment & Planning

Practical assessments to identify how a brain injury is affecting your daily life and planning to ensure appropriate support.

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Direct Support

Tailored personal support across aspects of daily living, enabling you or someone you support to participate in desired community, vocational and educational activities.

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Housing Options

Information and practical housing support options to help you or someone you support live in the home and community of their choice.

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NDIS Services

Registered NDIS pre-planning, support coordination and specialised services to ensure you, or the person you are caring for, get the most suitable support.

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Indigenous Services

We offer culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, including Specialist Disability Accommodation, Support Coordination and NDIS planning tools.

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Training & Education

Unique, specialised training to help you and your team better understand the needs of people impacted by brain injury.

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