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The journey of a BIL

By Ryan Jones: Brain Injury Linkworker

I believe I can best begin to illuminate the importance of the role of a Brain Injury Linkworker by a question that was put to me during the interview process.

That judgement of a person in our criminal justice system fails to consider the context of where that person has come from, their experiences and how this has shaped them and affects how they respond to stressors, which can lead to criminal behaviour. This perspective has solidified whilst I have been a Brain Injury Linkworker, where many of the men I work with in custody or on probation reported sustaining their first head injury when they were children at the hands of their parents or other adults who were meant to be caring for them.

A Brain Injury Linkworker provides a space for offenders, a portion of the often misunderstood population, to be listened to and legitimise the consequences of their head injuries, often dismissed as ‘excuses’. We aim to empower people in prison or on probation to understand their issues and behaviours whilst also acting as an advocate, communicating their needs to other professionals working with them and building a support network.

The people in prison who have screened positive for a brain injury have engaged well, appreciating the support and the time spent one-to-one to talk about their history, developing an insight into their cognition and behaviour and are generally well-mannered and polite, which may be to the surprise of many!

A challenge we have faced is people’s perceptions of offenders, mainly if they are wrong on paper. This can lead to the offenders’ reduced opportunities, making it difficult to reform and rehabilitate. We must treat these people as individuals, acknowledging that there is more to them than the offences they have committed.

Doing so enables us to develop a therapeutic relationship with the offenders, offering a non-judgemental space and empowering them to understand themselves and their behaviour. I frequently discuss cases with probation officers and other healthcare professionals to encourage a holistic and compassionate approach.

If we begin to change the culture and attitudes towards offenders with brain injury, surely it will spread to other prominent psychological issues in this population.

To learn more about the Brain Injury Link Worker service click here.

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