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Head injury in prison: Gang membership and the role of prison violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 67 Dated: 2020
Date Published

Since serious head injuries, also known as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), are associated with an increase in aggression and violent tendencies, the current study extends the literature on head injuries by examining whether gang membership is associated with an elevated risk of head injury in prison, and the extent to which this relationship is mediated by different forms of prison violence.


The study used data from the LoneStar Project, a representative sample of 802 men imprisoned in Texas. These data were used in assessing the gang membership-head injury link, using logistic regression and Karlson-Holm-Breen (KHB) mediation. The study found that prison gang members were >2.5 times as likely to report a head injury in prison compared to non-gang members (OR = 2.593; 95 percent CI = 1.220–5.509), net of controls. KHB mediation analyses revealed that violent misconduct and violent victimization collectively reduced the magnitude of the relationship between gang membership and in-prison head injury by 34.84 percent. The study concluded that prison gang members have a higher risk of head injury in prison, which is largely a function of their increased involvement in prison violence. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions should be used to lessen the negative repercussions from head injury and would be beneficial for reentry preparation. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020