One third of all offenders and one third of those sent to prison are aged 18 to 24. A report from Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance claims that thousands of vulnerable young adults with mental health problems, learning difficulties, drug and alcohol addictions, and backgrounds in homelessness and care, are being funnelled unnecessarily into the criminal justice system.
In a report published today, the T2A Alliance sets out proposals to radically reform the criminal justice system’s approach to young adults. They would apply at diversion; sentencing; custody and resettlement which are the keys stages of a young adult’s contact with the criminal justice system.
Independent research commissioned by T2A found that over the course of a typical year if all low-level, non-violent young adult offenders were given restorative conferencing rather than being sent through the criminal justice system, £275 million could be saved over the lifetime of these offenders. If the policy were implemented by the next government over £1billion would be saved during the period of the next two parliaments. There would also be a huge impact on re-offending rates and young adult crime.
The research also found that if all adult offenders between 18-24 sentenced to short term prison sentences in a year received community sentences instead, society could save £12 million over the lifetime of these young adults.
The report goes on to call for a ‘triage system’ for young adult offenders starting with the police where low-level offenders are assessed at the point of arrest on whether they should face the criminal justice system or be dealt with in the community.
For young adult offenders who can’t be diverted away from the criminal justice system, the report says that 18-24s should be treated as a distinct group when being sentenced. In addition the report calls for the courts system to take the level of maturity and the stage of development of each young adult offender into consideration during sentencing.
The T2A Alliance is convened by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and members also include, Catch22, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Clinks, Criminal Justice Alliance, NACRO, The Prince’s Trust, The Prison Reform Trust, Revolving Doors Agency, The Young Foundation and Young People in Focus.