Navigation Links
Non-whites receive harsher sentences for inflicted traumatic brain injury of children

CHAPEL HILL Non-white defendants are nearly twice as likely to receive harsher prison sentences than white defendants in North Carolina criminal cases stemming from inflicted traumatic brain injury of young children.

That's the conclusion reached by researchers from the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who tracked down what happened in every such case prosecuted in North Carolina in 2000 and 2001. Their study appears in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Inflicted traumatic brain injury is a specific form of child abuse, which includes but is not limited to shaken baby syndrome.

"We expected to find that whether or not the child died would be the factor most predictive of the punishment that was imposed," said Dr. Desmond K. Runyan, the study's senior author, professor and chair of the social medicine department in UNC's School of Medicine. Runyan is also a professor in the pediatrics department and an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health's epidemiology department.

"But we found instead, much to our surprise, that the race of the defendant was the most predictive factor," Runyan said. "Death of the child didn't matter nearly as much in terms of the sentence, and neither did any of the other factors we examined."

Defendants whose race was defined as non-white (which included African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans) were 1.9 times more likely than white defendants to receive a severe sentence. For the purposes of the study, severe sentences were defined as 90 days in prison or longer. Sentences defined as not severe included probation, community service and prison time of less than 90 days.

Runyan said the study raises serious questions of public health and social policy, including whether or not harsh prison sentences for the perpetrators of traumatic brain injury in young children is the most beneficial way for society to deal with this problem.

"In most of these cases the perpetrators are not acting with the intent of hurting the baby. Instead they are usually frustrated young parents who respond to a crying baby with 30 seconds of stupidity, because they weren't educated about the dangers of shaking a baby," Runyan said. "In my view, harsh prison sentences may not be the most appropriate response in this situation, and we need to seriously consider other ways of dealing with what is a significant public health problem."

The study's lead author is Heather T. Keenan, Ph.D., who was a graduate student at UNC and now is an associate professor at the University of Utah. Maryalice Nocera, a research nurse with the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, is a co-author.

"It is difficult to know what the appropriate judicial response should be to these cases as the value of the child's lost life or abilities need to be recognized," Keenan said. "However, it is clear that the response should not be based on the defendants' race or ethnicity."

This study follows up on an earlier study by the same researchers, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003. Their goal this time was to find out how the justice system treats suspected perpetrators of one specific form of child physical maltreatment, inflicted traumatic brain injury.

They found 75 substantiated cases of inflicted traumatic brain injury among children ranging from infants to 2-year-olds. Of these, criminal charges were filed in 54 cases. Forty-one of the defendants pleaded either guilty or no contest to the charges and 10 defendants went to jury trial. Three were found not guilty, leaving 48 defendants with criminal convictions. Of these, 30 (63 percent) were sentenced to time in prison.

Whether or not the child died was found to have an effect on the severity of charges that were filed; defendants faced more serious charges when the child died. However, even in cases where the child died sentencing outcomes varied widely, ranging from probation to life in prison.

Several other potential predictive factors of sentencing outcomes were examined, including perpetrator age, gender, relationship of the perpetrator to the child and whether or not the child died, but none were found to be statistically significant.

Runyan said these findings raise many questions for additional research, including whether or not the quality of the defendants' legal representation made a difference in sentencing outcome. Many of the defendants were poor and thus were represented by court-appointed attorneys.


Contact: Patric Lane
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related medicine news :

1. Viacom to Receive Leadership Award for Business Excellence from The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for Its 25 Years of Work on HIV/AIDS Education and Advocacy
2. Watson Receives Final Approval of Omeprazole Delayed-Release Capsules
3. China Sky One Medical, Inc. Receives SFDA Approval for Five Patches
4. Higher Education Leaders Receive TCWF Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award
5. VIDEO from Medialink and Abiomed: Worlds Smallest Heart Pump Receives 510(K) Clearance from FDA
6. AMSA PharmFree Scorecard Grades U.S. Medical Schools on Conflict-of-Interest Policies; Only 7 Receive an A
7. Bradmer receives FDA approval to proceed with Phase III clinical trial
8. Orlando: June 13-16; National Convention on Mental Illness; Jane Pauley to Receive Award
9. Watson Receives FDA Approval of Potassium Chloride Extended-Release Capsules
10. ATK Receives Laureate Award From Computerworld Honors Program for Storage and Data Protection Innovation Featuring Overlands Products
11. American Diabetes Association Receives $450,000 Grant From Abbott Fund for Latino Community Initiatives
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... At Grand Dental PC, their priority ... , When you have dental problems, you need to turn to a dentist who ... and treat your needs, a friendly dentist who counsels you on the best ways ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... Newly reviewed and approved “NJ Top Dentist”, Dr. Eugene Isola III, is ... in 1935. His father graduated from NYU School of Dentistry in 1965. ... their commitment and passion to the Practice of Dentistry. Continuing the family practice ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... The ... prostate cancer education and prevention—is joining forces with the award-winning creator and writer ... elegance on December 7, 2015 at the Union League of Philadelphia. , ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... While powdered supplements and drinks can reduce food preparation time, locating the ... has found an easy to keep track of the scoop. , He developed a ... a canister or other container handy and readily accessible. As such, it prevents the ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... 30, 2015 , ... Since its inception, Seniors Guide has ... assisted living and all other retirement options. Support for issues surrounding the senior ... a top priority. , So it’s no surprise that every November, Seniors ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. and ST. ... Cross and Express Scripts (NASDAQ: ESRX ) today ... benefit agreement. The partnership, which began in 1999, will ... --> --> After evaluating pharmacy ... process, Premera concluded that Express Scripts continues to offer ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... CHICAGO , Nov. 30, 2015   Nuance ... The National Decision Support Company (NDSC) today ... support and collaboration capabilities that utilize the American College ... and healthcare provider organizations to comply with current ... --> --> By combining clinical ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , Nov. 30, 2015 Varian Medical Systems (NYSE: ... an educational partnership with Apollo Hospitals Group, the largest hospital chain ... will help train radiation technologists in the country. The MoU was ... Apollo Knowledge, and Ashok Kakkar , Varian,s India ... India , Varian intends to deploy its ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: