Being arrested and held in custody can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone; it can be dangerous for a survivor of a brain injury. In this article, Albert Finklestein will be used as an example. He was recently mistakenly arrested, was fired up and had much to say regarding the topic at the Gray Matters Brain Injury Support Group.
Finkelstein says “You are arrested and are being punished as you are guilty. You are confined in an uncomfortable setting (i.e. no food or water, uncomfortable temperature in the room). They take away medications (this is a scary risk factor and can even be life-threatening!). There is no communication and you are perceived as dangerous. Interactions can lead to confrontation, even violence. This can lead to further mistaken incarceration, even further strokes!” Risks for any person brought in custody become magnified for a person with a brain injury; it is disorienting for anyone, it is extremely disorienting for a brain injury survivor.
“Brain injury survivors are more sensitized to perceived threats to themselves. This can affect their behavior and then police see their behavior and see them as a threat. This can somersault and create more and more chaos. This is due to a lack of understanding in the police department about a brain injury survivor’s experience. They have no reference points in order to understand a person with brain injury’s personal experience.
There are said to be psychological resources within the police department or in the jails. Though according to Albert, they are lacking and not available when the need arises. Because the psychological resources are not available, police officers should have a minimal level of understanding of brain injury survivors sensitivities and needs. They should recognize the dynamics of a person’s situation in jail, for a person with brain injury. There should be a sensitivity training or additional psychological resources available.
Albert said that he didn’t see any accommodations in the jail for people with disabilities. He thinks that there is a need for jail settings to be inspected to assure they are keeping up with ADA standards.
A bare minimal raising of awareness needs to occur, so procedures can be modified. People with brain injuries and all people with disabilities need a standard of care. Under the present conditions, a person can die. We are trying to avoid that.