A new T2A report, Pathways from Crime, identifies ten points in the criminal justice process where a more rigorous and effective approach for young adults and young people in the transition to adulthood (16-24) can be delivered.
The audience for this report is broad, but it should be of particular interest to commissioners, practitioners and policy-makers who work to support the criminal justice process.
It is hoped that professionals at all levels and across multiple sectors will act on this body of evidence to adapt and adopt the T2A pathway to ensure that all areas deliver an effective approach for young adults throughout the criminal justice process.
T2A has also today launched the results of Catch 22’s summative evaluation of the three T2A pilot projects. The research tracked 34 young people over a six month period, measuring outcomes based around the offender pathways used by the National Offender Management Service, including reoffending, accommodation, employment, health and families. The results are very encouraging. The results of the evaluation include:
- Only three young people were reconvicted in this time
- Employment rates trebled
- NEET (not in education, employment or training) levels halved.
Foreword to the Pathways from Crime report, by Dame Anne Owers (T2A Alliance Chair from 2011-12):
In 2001, as I became Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Labour government entered its second term with a manifesto promise to extend to young adult offenders the focused and specialised attention that it had tried to provide for juveniles during its first term.
But this never happened. As a result, as I said in my last Annual Report as Chief Inspector of Prisons, they have remained ‘a neglected and under-resourced age group’: with a high likelihood of reoffending and a low level of specific and targeted investment.
That is why the work of the T2A Alliance is so essential and so timely. Moving on from an analysis of the problem in ‘Lost in Transition’, the Barrow Cadbury Trust has worked with a range of practitioners, academics and policy groups to develop and support the kind of practical interventions that work. In three main pilot projects, multi-disciplinary teams have developed models of support relevant to different kinds of young adult offenders, from those who have committed more serious and persistent offences to those whose offending is less entrenched and less serious.
The T2A Alliance has also done valuable work on the concept of maturity, which is self-evidently not the same as biological age. Blowing out the candles on an 18th birthday cake does not magically transform anyone into a fully functioning and mature adult – even without the life disadvantages many young people in criminal justice have experienced. It is welcome that lack of maturity is now one of the mitigating factors that sentencers need to take account of: but it is only one factor, and sentencers may not have, or may not know of, relevant and effective sentencing options for this group.
The greatest frustration, for those working in the system as well as victims and young offenders, is that we know what does not work, but carry on doing it. Short prison sentences, followed by minimal post- release support, or conventional community sentences with limited engagement from an overworked probation service, cannot be expected to provide the support or challenge that young adults need, as they emerge from the protections – however limited – that they could rely on as juveniles.
There are no simple equations to turn round already damaged lives; and the latest work on desistance – why people stop offending – reminds us that this is a journey, not an event. But the provision of rigorous, individualised and focused support and mentoring – walking alongside young people as they try to change the narrative of their lives – does work. It has been described as a ‘probation plus’ model. Recent evaluations of the T2A pilots have shown that, of young adults tracked, many with prolific offending histories, only three had offended within six months, and none violently. Even allowing for the halo effect of small, enthusiastically led pilots, these are remarkable findings.
From those pilots, and the other research and policy work carried out over the last three years, T2A has developed a strong evidence base from which it has distilled ten Pathways from Crime. They are set out in this report, and provide a road-map for politicians, policy-makers and practitioners. They do not require legislative change, but they do require a change of approach and focus. That is an investment well worth making. This is not just an age-group with high levels of recidivism, but one where there is also the greatest opportunity to divert someone from a criminal career: studies have shown that 18 is also the peak age for desistance from crime. There is much good practice here, which if replicated and reinforced would significantly benefit victims and potential victims, young adult offenders themselves, and wider society.
See www.t2a.org.uk/pathway for more information.