The Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A) wholeheartedly welcomes the Justice Committee’s report of its Inquiry on Young Adult Offenders, and fully endorses its “blueprint” for a strategic approach to the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system.
Reacting to the Committee’s unequivocal conclusion that “there is overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system does not adequately address the distinct needs of young adults” and that “there is a strong case for a distinct approach”, Joyce Moseley OBE, Chair of the T2A Alliance said:
“18-25-year-olds in the criminal justice system have a hugely untapped capacity to address their behaviour and permanently “grow out of crime”. But all of us – particularly victims, the young adults themselves and their communities – are being let down by a lack of strategy at the top that takes account of their distinct stage in life. For too long, successive governments have overlooked the value of a delivering a specific criminal justice approach for young adults, leaving it to a patchwork of pioneers on the ground to do their best to meet the particular needs of this age group.
“Now, having reviewed the extensive and authoritative body of evidence from disciplines including neuroscience, criminology and psychology, all of which support calls for a distinct approach for young adults, the Justice Committee has rightly called on the government to pursue a robust and bold agenda dedicated to enabling young adults who commit crime to turn their lives around. T2A looks forward to working with the Ministry of Justice and other agencies to implement the Committee’s landmark and visionary report in full and without delay.”
The Committee’s report includes a bold blueprint for a distinct approach to young adults throughout the criminal justice system, which it says is presented “in the light of the Government’s failure to act and in recognition of the weight and wealth of evidence provided to us in the course of our inquiry, as well as the overwhelming enthusiasm within the sector for change”.
The Committee’s proposals include:
- That the prison sentence of ‘Detention in a Young Offender Institution’ (DYOIs) should be extended in forthcoming legislation to include all 18-25 year olds (it is currently restricted to those aged 18-20), and that various models of custody for young adults be piloted by the Ministry of Justice before any decision is made about long-term provision for this age group. T2A has campaigned strongly on both these points, in opposition to government proposals in 2013 to scrap the sentence of DYOI.
- Distinct young adult courts should be piloted, which T2A is currently developing in five sites across England and Wales in partnership with the Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI).
The Committee recognised that young adults are over-represented in the criminal justice system and also at greater risk of being victims of crime. Its strong recognition that many young adults in prison have faced additional challenges such as being in care (who make up around two fifths of young adults in prison) and experiencing brain injury (up to 70% of young people in prison), is particularly welcome and long overdue. T2A has worked with the Care Leavers’ Association to develop a national toolkit for young adult care leavers involved the criminal justice system, undertaken specific research and demonstration projects to show how young people with brain injuries in prison can be rehabilitated.
The Committee has specific recommendations relating to the fact that young black and Muslim men are disproportionately likely to end up in the criminal justice system (recognising the important contribution of Baroness Lola Young’s 2014 report), and rightly highlights that young women’s particular vulnerabilities and needs are different both to those of young men and older women and that they require a tailored response.
T2A also welcomes the Committee conclusion that all 18-25 year olds should be recognised as a distinct group, not just those within a criminal justice context, but also with regards to welfare, work, education and health. T2A strongly agrees that there should be cross-governmental responsibility to enable young adults, particularly those who have faced challenge and difficulty, to thrive and not be thwarted.
- Selection of T2A evidence: Brain injury: Repairing Shattered Lives: Brain injury and its implications for criminal justice, Prof Huw Williams; Young adult courts: Young Adults in Court – Developing a tailored approach, Centre for Justice Innovation; Young adults in custody: The Way Forward; Muslim young adults: Young Muslims on Trial, Maslaha
- Baroness Lola Young’s Report on the over-representation of Black and Muslim young adult men in the criminal justice system is here: http://www.youngreview.org.uk/
- Justice Committee website: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/justice-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/young-adult-offenders/
- T2A’s original submission to the Young Adult Offenders Inquiry is here