1.We decided to examine the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system due to concerns raised about the effectiveness of treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system, including high profile coverage of the tragic consequences for individuals when the system appears to have failed them, as well as uncertainty about how the Government intends to deal with these issues. Our inquiry follows the amassing of substantial evidence on young adults’ needs, characteristics, existing experiences and potentially more effective ways of working with them by the Transition to Adulthood Alliance and the publication in December 2015 of significant recommendations for reform by Lord (Toby) Harris of Haringey in his review into self-inflicted deaths of young adults in custody.
2.We invited submissions addressing the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system on the terms of reference set out in Annex 1. The bulk of this report gives a summary of evidence on needs and characteristics of young adults and assesses and draws conclusions about the current approach to the treatment of young adults by the Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service, Youth Justice Board, youth offending teams, providers of prison and probation services, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Sentencing Council and sentencers, including governance arrangements. Given the substantial largely uncontroversial evidence amassed by the Transition to Adulthood Alliance and its partners and Lord Harris of Haringey among others, and the absence of a defined Government strategy for the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system, we present our recommendations in the concluding chapter of this report in the form of a draft strategy which we propose should be adopted by the Ministry and other actors in the criminal justice system listed above.
3.To commence our inquiry we held an informal exploratory seminar with selected experts to familiarise ourselves with the key issues. We subsequently met families of young adults who had been, or were in custody, including of two young men who had taken their lives, and with young adults who were or had been recently involved in the criminal justice system, and their supporters. This event left us in no doubt of the tragic personal consequences when the system fails those it is there to save. In addition to holding six oral evidence sessions, we visited HM YOI Aylesbury and HMP Wandsworth. We also went to New York and Boston to examine how they had approached recent changes to practices with young adults in the criminal justice system. We are grateful to all those who have assisted us in our inquiry, particularly those who shared with us their heart-rending personal experiences.
1 Defined as those aged 18 to 25
2 Lord Harris of Haringey, , December 2015. Hereafter The Harris Review.
24 October 2016