A Case Study of the Medical History of Alfonse “Scarface” Capone: Relevance to Current Research and Practice
Kathleen Brewer-Smyth, PhD RN CRRN, Nursing, University of Delaware, McDowell Hall, Newark, DE 19716
Purpose: The medical history of Alfonse “Scarface” Capone was investigated to search for relationships to current research data describing neurological abnormalities of prison inmates. Background: Neurological impairment, traumatic brain injuries, childhood trauma, and childhood abuse have been associated with violent and high risk behaviors of prison inmates. Methods (sources, analytic approach): Medical, prison, criminal, and media records from the National Archives describing the life of Gangster, Al “Scarface” Capone were investigated. Results: Historical records of the life, crimes, and medical conditions of Al Capone suggest similarities to current prison research data collected by this principal investigator under the guidance of multidisciplinary teams. Our research data suggests relationships between neurological abnormalities and high risk behaviors of female prison inmates. Records also suggest an association between Al Capone's declining neurological condition and increased high risk behaviors. He was nicknamed “Scarface” due to facial scars that dated back to his youth. He stopped going to school for multiple reasons. Medical records describe an infectious process at the time of Al Capone's transfer to Alcatraz, which lead to progressive neurological decline until his death at age 48. Conclusions and Implications: Treatment is now available for the infectious process that contributed to Al Capone's early death. However, other infectious processes potentially involving the central nervous system, including HIV and hepatitis are known to be prevalent in prison populations today. Facial scars secondary to abuse and traumatic brain injuries are also prevalent in prison populations. Exposures to trauma during childhood and neurological abnormalities may continue to be associated with violent and other high risk behaviors in adulthood. Health care providers could play a critical role in identifying youths at risk in order to decrease high risk behaviors associated not only with crime, but also with transmission of infectious diseases.