Giving young offenders a pathway away from crime
The Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance has today launched a report ‘Pathways from Crime – Ten steps to a more effective approach for young adults in the criminal justice process’.
The Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance is a broad coalition of organizations including YoungMinds, convened by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, that evidences and promotes ‘the need for a distinct and radically different approach to young adults in the criminal justice system; an approach that is proportionate to their maturity and responsive to their specific needs’.
It is the latest in a series of important reports from them looking at the problems young adults with complex needs face when they transition from childhood to adulthood.
As the report says, “Young adults who experience educational failure, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions, unemployment, family difficulties, or learning disabilities often end up on the fringes of the criminal justice process by default when other services and support structures fall away on their 18th birthday.”
Around 90% of young offenders suffer with one or more mental health problems; many, even if they have been seen by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), may not be taken on by adult services. It seems illogical that young people skirting around the criminal justice system have most of their support services withdrawn when they turn 18.
Three out of four young adults leaving prison are reconvicted of a crime within two years, and two out of three are reconvicted within two years of serving a community sentence. What hope of ever tackling youth re-offending if we keep on ignoring the impact that the transition stage has on young adults?
Research on brain development shows that the adult brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20s yet so many support services for vulnerable young people are switched off when they reach 18. The criminal justice system spends much of its time dealing with young offenders (young adults make up one third of those sentenced to prison each year) but very little specific investment is made to support this group.
The Transition to Adulthood Alliance has set up three pilots in London, Birmingham and West Mercia that are demonstrating that through community interventions, tailored to the individual, reoffending and social exclusion amongst young adults can be tackled. ‘Pathways from Crime’ sets out steps for policy makers to consider a more effective approach to dealing with young adults in the criminal justice process.
YoungMinds is currently working on a research project with the T2A pilots conducted by City University on the relationship between mental health services and young offenders. The study will look at the effect poor transitions between children and adult mental health services has on young adults and whether poor provision exacerbates offending behaviour in young people who are in touch with the criminal justice system. Recommendations to improve practice will be developed with the Centre for Mental Health.