25.The MoJ and NOMS have each accepted the evidence that young adults mature up to their mid-20s; Andrew Selous MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation, acknowledged to us in April 2016 that many young adults have quite severe levels of immaturity. We consider in this chapter how fully policies and practices reflect this.
26.As we noted in paragraph 5, NOMS does not readily identify young adults as 18-to-24 year olds. NOMS’ guidance to prisons and probation services on the treatment of young adults distinguishes between the differing needs of young adult men and young adult women underpinned by the concept of emotional and social maturity. In NOMS states that although the law defines young adults as aged 18 to 20, it should be noted that:
[ … ] as young adult men continue to mature into their mid-twenties, the commissioning principles articulated are likely to apply to, and therefore make a difference to, many adults over 20 and particularly those aged under 25. These principles concern young adult men only. Women mature at a different rate and manifest maturity in different ways to men.
With regards to its guidance on the maturity of women, NOMS acknowledges that, similar to males, the parts of the brain associated with impulse control, and regulation and interpretation of emotions, are the last to mature, and continue to develop well into adulthood. It also identifies gender differences in the expression of antisocial behaviour among maturing boys and girls: girls tend to display less physical aggression but more relational forms of aggression, such as ostracism of peers, non-physical bullying, and manipulation, than do boys.
27.The MoJ in its written evidence asserted that consideration of brain development was particularly applicable to young adult males and that the needs of young adults were akin to older prisoners in several respects, but did not point to evidence of how the needs of those age 21 to 25 could be distinguished from them. We sought better to understand whether young adults were more like under 18s than over 21s or over 25s. Data available from the Ministry and NOMS did not assist us in this matter as there is no consistency in how ages are broken down in various statistics; young adults over the age of 18, and/or 21 are frequently aggregated with older offenders. We asked for clarification on this from Mr Selous who agreed to share with us further data. He later said that the Ministry would publish these data in July 2016 but disappointingly it did not do so. These data will now be published on 28 October 2016.
28.Mr Spurr explained that NOMS’ guidance and its segmentation of data on young adults focused primarily on 18 to 20 year olds because they are “a defined group that we manage according to sentence” and Mr Selous similarly emphasised the legal status of this cohort. On the other hand, neither of them acknowledged that the legislation applied only to prison sentences. Both recognised that maturity comes with age, to some degree, and emphasised the relevance of guidance on young people up to their mid-20s. Baroness Young highlighted a lack of data on BAME young adult offenders, including important differences between communities that fall within this group.
29.Departmental governance arrangements split responsibility for policy on young adults between the MoJ and NOMS. A team within the MoJ’s Criminal Justice Policy Group oversees strategy for young adults, as well as for other key groups including older offenders and female offenders. Within NOMS a Deputy Director of Custody for Young People is responsible for ensuring operationally that the needs of young adults aged 18 to 21 are considered in the custodial estate and there is an equivalent lead within the National Probation Service. The latter post has a wider range of portfolios but each of them is additionally responsible for young people under the age of 18. Young adults constitute a significant portion of NOMS’ caseloads, making up 20 per cent of the prison population and 25 per cent of National Probation Service (NPS) cases.
30.Under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms implemented by the previous Government the majority of young adults who are on probation are supervised by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). Therefore, while there is a nominal lead within the NPS, it is for each CRC to decide how best to manage young adults under their supervision. Mr Allars, then NOMS Director of Probation, acknowledged that progress on approaches for young adults, in particular work between probation services with youth offending teams, had been hindered by the major restructuring to implement the reforms.
31.Our inquiry has taken place in the context of significant zeal for prison reform under the previous Secretary of State, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, who commissioned several independent reviews of elements of MoJ practices. The Government accepted the recommendations of Dame Sally Coates’ review of prison education and the interim findings of Charlie Taylor’s review of youth justice. On the other hand, the report of an independent review of self-inflicted deaths in custody of 18 to 24 year olds chaired by Lord Harris of Haringey commenced by the previous Government did not attract such a positive reaction from Mr Gove. The new incoming Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, has told us of her intention to publish a prison safety and reform plan in due course, without giving the details. We discuss this further later in this chapter and the implications for governance arrangements and strategy in more detail in chapter 3.
32.We consider that existing governance arrangements are unsatisfactory as they fail to take account both of the distinct needs of young adults up to the age of 25 and of the importance of understanding the level of maturity of all young adults to treat them effectively in recognition of their individual circumstances. There is no clearly defined strategy and the various age definitions applied by the Ministry of Justice are both confusing and do not inspire the coherent approach that young adults require if they are to engage effectively in their rehabilitation.
33.There is currently no system-wide statutory provision to differentiate the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system from that of older adults, although there are some legislative provisions. The specific community disposal for those aged 18 to 25 is the attendance centre, of which there are approximately 42 in England and Wales, managed by ten Community Rehabilitation Companies. These deliver activities and instruction designed to strengthen factors which promote desistance from crime, including social, education and life-skills training to increase employability, maintaining physical and mental health, how to have successful relationships and dealing effectively with high risk situations. While such centres have existed for many years—with the related order (now requirement) being introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 1948 and originally available for young offenders aged up to 21 years old, later extended to up to 25 year olds—they are infrequently and inconsistently used and the MoJ is not aware of any research assessing their effectiveness.
34.Historically there have been distinct custodial institutions for 18 to 20 year olds, and legislative provision for a sentence of detention in a young offenders’ institution continues to reflect this, but recently practice has diverged. Young adults are currently held in 65 prison establishments, in a mixture of facilities: five are dedicated to 18 to 20 year olds, others hold 18 to 24 year olds, and the remainder are integrated with adults. Nick Pascoe, then NOMS Deputy Director of Custody of Young People, estimated that 65% of young adults under 21 were held in the latter, which NOMS believed was a better strategy. There are no dedicated facilities for young adult women, who are all held alongside adults.
35.As we identified in our report on Prison Safety, deterioration of standards has been widespread across the prison estate. Nevertheless, the young adult custodial estate has been the subject of several particularly poor inspections. Young adults feature highly in prison statistics on violence, adjudications and use of force, and BAME young men are over-represented within these statistics. Young adults tend to spend more time than other prisoners locked in their cells and as a result have tended to have poorer outcomes in relation to access to purposeful activity like education and training.
36.HM Inspectorate of Prisons has found that there has typically been little or no action to understand or address these issues, and manage actively this population, with evidence of inconsistent treatment and no evidence of any coherent strategy. For example, very few adult prisons that currently hold young adults have a distinct approach to their management; there is a lack of specific training, dedicated interventions and additional resources. Our own analysis of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ reports showed that around a third of the mixed age institutions appeared to have a dedicated approach to dealing with the young adult prisoners they hold.
37.Successive Governments have proposed abolishing the distinct sentence of detention in a young offender institution and the previous Government issued a consultation in November 2013. The decision was postponed pending the findings of the Harris Review of the deaths of young adults in custody and the current Government has not yet clarified their position, assigning it under the previous Secretary of State as a matter to be determined within the wider context of its programme of prison reform. We examine the merits of this sentence further in chapter 3.
38.Max Rutherford of T2A was critical of what he characterised as “policy erosion” around young adults with regards to detention in a young offender institution. Despite the absence of a decision on the future of the sentence, the reduction of specialist establishments appears to have become de facto policy, associated with the decline in the number of young people in custody. We were told in early February that there were five young offender institutions for young adults. The following month we asked the then Secretary of State about the Government’s plans for changing the role of one of these institutions, HMYOI Glen Parva. In a letter responding to this he stated that:
The number of young adults in custody has fallen by 40% since 2010 while the adult population has increased by around 10%. This has caused Glen Parva to operate with a significant number of unfilled places at the same time that pressure has grown to provide more places for adult prisoners. This is clearly not a sustainable position and we had three options to manage it: close Glen Parva altogether and move the young offenders further from home, change Glen Parva into an adult prison or retain the young offenders in Glen Parva and fill the empty places with adult prisoners. After careful consideration we chose the third option because it provides the best outcome for the management of both adults and young offenders and it is the way that we already operate successfully in a number of former young offender institutions.
[ … ] For your further information, I would like to assure you that it is established NOMS policy that young adults held alongside adults in prisons such as Glen Parva are always accommodated in separate cells from adult prisoners.
39.We note that the options considered for HM YOI Glen Parva did not include the option of extending the age range of the establishment, say to 25 or 30. It is not clear what further consideration is being given by the Ministry to custodial provision for young adults, or whether there are plans to change the remaining dedicated YOIs to mixed establishments. Mr Gove’s statement regarding the policy on cell-sharing illustrates that while there are few legal requirements necessitating differential treatment of 18 to 20 year olds under the prison rules and the Prison Act 1952, NOMS can mandate specific approaches if it chooses to do so. When we questioned Mr Selous further about this policy he emphasised that holding young adults in many different establishments enables proximity to family. Nevertheless, he also admitted that the policy was partly because of capacity management issues as dedicated young offender institutions are under-used.
40.In the absence of legislation or defined strategy, NOMS is reliant on the justice services it commissions to operate in accordance with its guidance on the treatment of young adults. In addition to identifying differences in need related to age which we set out in chapter 1, NOMS’ guidance assembles evidence on how best to support young adult men and women, including proposed gender differences in effective interventions. NOMS guidance Better Outcomes for Young Adult Men summarised its guiding principles for evidence-based commissioning for this cohort as follows:
41.When we discussed this with Mr Selous, he emphasised the particular need of young adults to develop the qualities of temperance, perspective and responsibility, including cognitive skills and anger management, as well as training with integrated basic skills leading to employment in real jobs. He also recognised that one specific element of a distinct approach to young adults involved the engagement of family and other supportive relationships. He described family as “the most effective resettlement agency” in an endorsement of the view expressed by Nick Hardwick, the previous HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.
42.With regard to young adult women, NOMS guidance suggests that it is particularly important to promote the development of a positive identity, to provide an encouraging influence on their development, and to help them become more self-sufficient and less reliant on others. Additionally, they should explicitly recognise and reinforce positive attributes of women’s characters. T2A has identified that the needs of young women leaving custody have been largely ignored. They attribute this to the fact that they make up a small proportion of the custodial population—in which young adult women are mixed with older women—and that they usually offend less frequently and less seriously than young males. The Ministry of Justice placed emphasis in its evidence on brain development in young men, yet as we heard from Professor Williams, the evidence on maturation and brain development in young adulthood applies across gender, although women typically mature more quickly.
43.The NOMS guidance only goes as far as encouraging prisons and probation services to treat younger adults differently. It is for individual prison governors and probation providers to adopt these approaches. We also heard that there is a need for stronger evidence both of the nature of young adults within the system and of how to deal effectively with this cohort. Colin Allars admitted that NOMS did not have a full understanding of this. Some witnesses felt that there was an over-emphasis placed by criminal justice practitioners on managing risk which resulted in them overlooking developmental and other vulnerabilities and highlighted policies related to discipline and behaviour which did not reflect their developmental status and which NOMS instructions on these processes does not explicitly reflect. We discuss this further in chapter 3.
44.In their policies and their guidance, the Ministry of Justice and NOMS do not appear to give sufficient weight to the implications of brain maturation for young adult men and women aged 21 to 25. Even for those aged 18 to 20 they lack a strategic differentiation in approach, particularly in prisons, for both male and female prisoners.
45.Prisons and probation services often find young adults harder to engage than older adults, which can be due to maturity levels or disabilities causing difficulties building trusting and effective relationships. Some witnesses emphasised the importance of criminal justice practitioners understanding the behaviours that may be displayed by young adults and the reasons for them. NOMS reflects this in its guidance in which it advocates that staff should be trained to understand maturity and suggests that skilled practitioners can help young adults by: coaching in goal setting and problem solving; conversations that emphasise future orientation; use of reward and reinforcement; and explicit recognition of independence and other positive attributes rather than communicating negative expectations and labels.
46.Some of our witnesses assessed the extent and quality of training for practitioners. There is no distinctive element of prison officer training dealing with understanding or handling young adults, either in dedicated institutions or mixed ones. Specific staff training regarding the needs of young adults would be up to individual prison governors to commission. For example, some governors have provided training in conflict management and others have involved young adults themselves in training. Colin Allars, then Director of the National Probation Service, believed that maturity was well understood as a concept amongst probation practitioners. Nevertheless, the NPS was seeking to bolster its expertise, including by better utilising staff who had been working in youth offending teams. It is for each CRC to determine whether it will develop dedicated provision for young adults and train their staff accordingly. We examine some examples in chapter 3.
47.Others emphasised the need for those working in courts, prisons and probation services to have a more detailed understanding of religion and culture and its impact on development and identity. Baroness Young of Hornsey had found that staff in prisons and probation services lacked “cultural competency”, although in its work with her to implement the recommendations of her review she said that NOMS had been supportive of improving equalities, including by recruiting and progressing BAME staff.
48.Baroness Young and other witnesses identified during their research for the review and for T2A several instances of unsatisfactory treatment of race, culture and religion. For example, Mr Crook from Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) felt the system displayed bias in its treatment of BAME and Muslim youths:
From our point of view, the stereotypes of the young black male gang association and the young Muslim male extremism association become quite prevalent and all too often colour and taint the way people are dealt with in the criminal justice system. Research shows that a large number of young black men who are in contact with and are charged by the police are not in gangs at all. The assumption is that they are in gangs, but they are not on any gang register that the police hold.
Raheel Mohammed of Maslaha had found examples of “casual racist banter” in prisons and YOIs. He emphasised the importance of criminal justice professionals having “no squeamishness about difference in culture or religion”, a philosophy which in his view was less well developed in the criminal justice system than in the health sector. For example, this would include recognition of the differences between being a Somali man in Ladbroke Grove, as compared with a Pakistani man in Birmingham and of the role and value of religion in providing a “real anchor and level of support” for young Muslim men, rather than it being seen as undesirable by criminal justice professionals. When we put this to Mr Pascoe he acknowledged Muslim prisoners’ perceptions but felt that NOMS made a significant effort to ensure decent treatment and respect for religion and cultural needs, which he felt may take time to have a significant impact. NOMS Equality Strategy states their intention to develop “more inclusive environment(s) that improve the legitimacy of regimes, services and rehabilitative interventions, recognising that BAME prisoners report significantly poorer responses than non BAME prisoners regarding their treatment by staff.
49.Some of our witnesses gave their views on the adequacy of existing screening and assessment in enabling criminal justice practitioners to factor maturity into their decision making. A guide to maturity for probation practitioners devised by T2A, which builds on the OASys assessment, had been widely used and endorsed by NOMS in its guidance. Several witnesses highlighted a lack of systematic assessment of maturity. Nevertheless, Angela Cossins of the National Probation Service explained that despite there currently being no specific assessment tool, consideration of maturity is an established part of probation practice in making reports to court. Some CRCs have developed or commissioned their own tools. Particular concerns were raised that criminal justice agencies were not identifying neuro-disabilities, neurological deficits, mental disorders, or language and learning difficulties, either through screening or professional assessment. We heard that under-diagnosis of neuro-disabilities might be because individuals did not meet the clinical threshold of a specific condition or because diagnoses are complicated by the co-existence of a range of conditions.
50.In recognition of the need for further information, NOMS is testing the reliability and validity of a screening tool for psycho-social maturity, the development and implementation of which has been delayed due to difficulties in collecting the necessary data when prisons were facing other pressures; NOMS initially planned to roll it out from autumn 2016 if it proved reliable. We understand it is still undergoing academic quality assurance and although it has been developed and tested in prisons, it is also applicable to community settings. MoJ stated that the tool will help to better tailor services and interventions for young adults, yet importantly, due to resource constraints it is based on existing needs assessments and does not include consideration of neuro-disabilities. It is not clear whether NOMS is developing an equivalent approach for people who receive non-custodial sentences. We consider in more detail the advice about maturity provided to prosecutors and courts later in this chapter.
51.We heard from several witnesses, including Dr Chitsabesan, that there is a tendency for existing needs assessments to focus on the external behaviour of young adults rather than its underlying causes. Professor Sir Anthony Bottoms highlighted the complexities of differentiating between vulnerability and risk, cautioning that vulnerability is not ‘unidimensional’ so that significant immaturity can be seen alongside sophisticated offending behaviour. Baroness Young among others saw existing assessments as limited, characterising them as “tick-box” exercises rather than seeking to understand an individual as a “human being”.
52.The majority of our evidence recognises that there is an emerging interest in criminal justice agencies in treating young adults more appropriately, but argues that for the most part this has not been Government driven. There is little specific policy or legislation from the Ministry of Justice focused on this age group: most youth and adult justice policy and legislation is split on the basis of chronological age at 18. Coupled with inconsistent application of the definition of young adults in operational practice, this has created a system in which the distinct needs of young adults and the potential to assist them in turning away from crime are largely overlooked and at best treated inconsistently. In the absence of policy change the National Offender Management Service has focused on the promotion of guidance for practitioners and commissioners and emphasised training by individual prison establishments and by CRCs.
53.We welcome the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to develop a maturity assessment. The absence within this of screening for mental disorders, neuro-disabilities and learning and communication needs has resulted in a missed opportunity to develop a comprehensive assessment. This is short-sighted as such screening would enable a thorough understanding of individual needs and underpin better informed commissioning decisions for the services young adults need to address their offending. Our evidence suggests that the equivalent tool used in the youth justice system could be adapted easily, and indeed is already being used informally in young adult YOIs.
54.The number of young adults in custody has been falling, including as a consequence of there being fewer young offenders entering the criminal justice system and being sentenced to custody. Those that remain in the custodial estate have become more challenging to manage in several respects and their outcomes tend to be poor. Of particular concern is levels of self-inflicted deaths and levels of violence.
55.Lord Harris of Haringey’s report on his inquiry on self-inflicted deaths made 108 recommendations for reform. His conclusions were stark; he said that “all young adults in custody are vulnerable” and that the separation of young people from their families and support networks exacerbates these vulnerabilities. He described the experience of being in prison as “particularly damaging” to developing young adults and characterised prisons and YOIs as “grim environments, bleak and demoralising to the spirit”. He also felt that it was “significant” that “failure [by the state to protect young people in prison custody] is made all the greater because the same criticisms have occurred time and again. Lessons have not been learned, and not enough has been done to bring about substantive change [ … ] many of the core issues and problems have been identified over the last 10, 15 or 20 years.”
56.Many of our witnesses agreed with his characterisation of the vulnerability of young people in custody. The Royal College of Psychiatrists emphasised that the environment that young adult brains find themselves in has an impact on how they develop and separation from family and friends and exposure to punitive conditions can cause brain changes. Lord Harris was deeply disappointed in the Government’s response to his report telling us:
“When you call them, the Government will say that they accepted the majority of our recommendations in their response and, yes, quite a number of them have the word “agreed” by them. But when you read the description of what “agreed” means, it sounds very much as though they have rather missed the point.”
“ … there are a number of recommendations that they say have been agreed and are already adopted. The purpose of the recommendations was that we did not think that existing policies were working.”
In his latter point he was referring to Prison Service Instructions, which are numerous, and Lord Harris found they were neither adequately resourced nor monitored. Examples of those recommendations which the Government said it had already implemented included those relating to engagement with families, safeguarding measures, and information sharing. Our discussions with bereaved families, supported by Inquest, and with the family of a young man who was in custody at the time echoed Lord Harris’s observations on the shortcomings in the care of vulnerable young prisoners, including limitations in the mental health support and care provided even to those who have been identified as especially vulnerable, including those subject to Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT), a process which seeks to prevent self-harm and suicide. Prisons and Communities Together (PACT) described ACCT as “more like a monitoring system than a support mechanism, with offenders supported until the next review, but no longer term or more in depth provision given.”
57.The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which has a statutory duty to monitor and advise on equality and human rights enactments, conducted an inquiry into the non-natural deaths of adults with mental health conditions in detention, much of which was supportive of the findings and recommendations of the Harris Review. The EHRC noted the obligations of the Government under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect individuals in state detention whose life is at risk, whether from the acts of others or from suicide, and under Article 14 to adopt an age appropriate approach to prisoners, to ensure they are not discriminated against, either directly or indirectly, on the basis of factors related to age. Regarding NOMS’ response to some of the systemic problems he had found Lord Harris observed:
… I do not know how the senior management of NOMS can assure themselves—or indeed Ministers—that what they say should be happening is happening”. He explained “ … They do not have structures in place to tell them what is going on. For example, they have no mechanism for knowing how many hours prisoners in a particular establishment are getting out of cell. If that prison is regularly in lockdown, they do not have the data. They do not have data centrally on how many safer cells are available in particular prisons … They do not know so how can they manage it?
58.Lord Harris characterised NOMS’ approach as “universally defensive” and he had the impression that they did not want to change existing practice regarding young adults. In evidence to us the then Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous MP, welcomed the Harris Review, noting the Ministry’s acceptance of the majority of its recommendations and pointing to improvements in safeguarding procedures and prison officer training. Nevertheless, at the inquests of two recent deaths of young adults in HMYOI Glen Parva the Governor admitted that a lack of resources prevented staff from being able to adequately protect prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm. One of the Government’s arguments for not accepting the core recommendations of Lord Harris’s report was that the incidence of self-inflicted deaths is higher for older prisoners.
59.Young men in prison are both the perpetrators and victims of violence. HMIP inspections have found that 27% of young adults integrated with older adults and 31% of those in dedicated YOIs reported having experienced victimisation. There has been a sharp rise in adjudications used in prison as a disciplinary measure for violent incidents. For example, Mr Spurr attributed this to the smaller concentration of young adults now in custody being increasingly violent, problematic and spontaneous. We have rehearsed in detail in our report Prison Safety the factors related to the increase in violence across the prison estate. With regard specifically to violence perpetrated by young adults in custody the representatives from NOMS emphasised links with age, new psychoactive substances (NPS) and gangs. Dr Gooch observed a change in dynamics of victimisation in prisons over the last two or three years related to debts derived from illegally held mobile phones and NPS Mr Pascoe said that issues “from the street” were imported into prison, particularly in establishments holding young men from large conurbations.
60.Lord Harris told us that bullying was a factor in many of the self-inflicted death cases he examined. The Zahid Mubarek Trust which works to address equalities in London prisons identified that within prison culture complaints between peers are not considered acceptable. Drs Gooch and Treadwell similarly found bullying and victimisation to be so entrenched it was ‘taken for granted’ in prison life. Victimisation was often inextricably linked to the illicit prisoner economy, including trade in contraband—such as mobile telephone, cannabis and new psychoactive substances—and canteen items. The operation of this economy can lead to physical violence, intimidation and threats, both to obtain goods and for failure to repay “debts”. Debts can escalate rapidly as part of a culture of charging double initially as well as for non-payment; this did not appear to be recognised by prisoners or staff as harmful or exploitative. Drs Gooch and Treadwell also found a lack of interventions to reduce violence and victimisation, for example, to address victim empathy and tolerance of violence, and insufficient support for victims and perpetrators, who both often had poor social and communication skills.
61.The effectiveness of efforts to manage gangs within the prison estate was another matter of particular concern, with several witnesses believing that there was insufficient awareness of gang dynamics and associations, even in London prisons, and issues with the identification of gang members, including possible stereotyping. Lord Harris described NOMS as being “curiously blind” about gangs in prisons. Nick Pascoe said that about 80% of London gang members, identified by Trident, are BAME. However, we heard that gang membership can be difficult to verify. Baroness Young had spoken to young black men who felt there was a propensity to identify them as a gang if they were in a group, which was not necessarily applied to young white people. BTEG explained the impact of this:
Within local communities the concerns are that gang interventions may accentuate ethnic disproportionality within the CJS and research in Manchester has pointed to this as a possible conclusion comparing gang databases to other databases of agencies such YOTs and probation. Our worry is that such interventions invariably cast a wide net and may pull in young people on the periphery or not actually engaged in gang activity but on the basis of their ethnicity and where they live.
Mat Ilic of Catch 22 explained the complexity of determining gang involvement: “[o]ne of the challenges is that there are official data telling you who may or may not be in what gang, but there is also the formal and informal stuff young people affiliate to—what they do and why they do it in custody”. Mr Pascoe emphasised the scale of the groups of Muslim prisoners that some prisons were managing which might influence their treatment in some circumstances. For example, in Feltham there were 150 attendees at Friday prayers.
62.We heard that the management of gangs can have a detrimental effect on prison regimes. Prisoners at HMYOI Aylesbury told us during our visit that movement around the prison and access to purposeful activity was often restricted to reduce violence, including for the purposes of gang management. Mr Selous acknowledged that where there is violence NOMS’ operational priority is necessarily safety, but this undermines prisons’ ability to offer access to high quality, relevant education and purposeful work. He told us that more guidance on gang issues was being provided to prisons and probation staff, computerised systems were being used to manage gangs, and a programme Identity Matters—targeted at those who have committed serious violence because of their links with a group or gang—had been piloted in YOIs by NOMS which he planned to extend. In discussing the progress that NOMS had made with it strategic approach to violence through its Violence Reduction Programme, which is due to finish at the end of 2016, Nick Pascoe emphasised improvements in tools for monitoring and targeting violence, developments in prisons design, and better engagement with the CPS and the police on victim statements to court to support prosecutions for serious acts of violence.
63.Some witnesses identified prison policies to manage behaviour, including to address violence, which they regarded as inappropriate to the developmental status of young adults and recommended they be reviewed. This included the prison disciplinary system and the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme. The latter was seen as too inflexible because developmentally young adults respond more positively to immediate rewards than to punishment. Drs Gooch and Treadwell highlighted its limitations:
Punishment alone is an ineffective tool when seeking to engage this cohort in behavioural change or deter future acts of aggression. Segregating or placing then on an unengaging basic regime with long hours of limited activity does not deter them, nor does it address underlying attitudes.
Young adults are particularly likely to be on the lowest level of the IEP scheme, and most unlikely to be on the enhanced level; the length of time it can take to get off the basic level does not provide a sufficient incentive to change behaviour, as they may feel that they have ‘nothing to lose’. Restrictions to family visits under the scheme were seen as unduly punitive. The Government is considering reforms to IEP as part of its wider approach to prison reform.
64.The Government’s current penal reform agenda indicates that significant structural changes are being considered, and indeed may be necessary financially. However, the lack of central decision making on young adults’ policy and practice has not been addressed explicitly within their plans. The MoJ and NOMS have side-stepped the issue of the anomaly of dedicated prison sentences for 18 to 20 year olds by designating many institutions YOIs as well as prisons but has neither ensured that mixed establishments have strategies for dealing with young adults, nor addressed the distinct needs of 22 to 25 year olds, resulting in a lack of robust evidence. The evidence shows that young adult prisoners are disproportionately more likely to engage in, and experience prison violence, and that bullying and violence is an enduring and worsening problem both in YOIs and mixed institutions. Without more explicit recognition of this, cohort outcomes are likely to remain poor and the evidence base for developing policy and practice is unlikely significantly to improve.
65.Another issue which particularly affects the management of young adults is access to purposeful activity. HM Inspectorate of Prisons noted that young adults were significantly less likely than older prisoners to report spending ten or more hours out of their cell on a weekday (6% vs. 17%), or to go on association more than five times a week (46% vs. 55%). Drs Gooch and Treadwell found in their research that there were often delays in allocating prisoners to activities; there were an insufficient number of activity places; courses were not always engaging; and, there was a tendency for more vulnerable prisoners to avoid confrontation by withdrawing from the regime.
66.In examining the reasons for this we were presented with something of a circular argument. Evidence from HMIP suggests that in establishments where young adults were given enough purposeful activity to keep them occupied they behaved better. However, the Inspectorate had found in Aylesbury that the response to violence was to maintain security by locking young adults in their cells for long periods, which restricted their access to activities and created tensions when they were unlocked. We heard ourselves from prisoners in HM YOI Aylesbury that this was the default response to violence and that this was a source of immense frustration for those seeking to use their time in prison actively, including to prepare for release. Drs Gooch and Treadwell found that a lack of available purposeful activity for young adults leads to boredom, and an increased risk of violent behaviour, bullying and drug abuse. Lord Harris observed:
In practice, it is clear that young adults in prison are not sufficiently engaged in purposeful activity and their time is not spent in a constructive and valuable way. Current restricted regimes do not even allow for the delivery of planned core day activities that might help with rehabilitation. Our evidence demonstrates that young adults do not have enough activities, such as education or work, which will enable them to live purposeful lives.
Mr Pascoe acknowledged that NOMS’ target for six hours of purposeful activity a day, and 10 hours out of cell was “quite a challenge” to deliver, partially attributing this to the behaviour of young adults and the capacity to engage.
67.The MOJ and NOMS accept the evidence that young adults mature up to their mid-20s, but their policies do not reflect this, especially in relation to 22 to 25 year olds. We welcome NOMS guidance which recognises that, by virtue of their developmental status and gender differences, young adults are likely to need managing in particular ways, but this has not translated systematically into practice. This is particularly the case in prisons, where we found no evidence of a strategy for the management of young adults, either in dedicated or mixed institutions. There is no routine screening and the prevalence of neuro-disabilities, mental disorder, and learning and communication needs is not known, resulting in inconsistent treatment, few dedicated approaches, a lack of sentence planning and, of utmost concern to us, very poor outcomes. We have major concerns about the time young adults are spending in their cells, the volume of disciplinary measures, and reoffending rates. While we understand the challenges of balancing responses to risks and needs, if the latter are not known and resources are not available to address them appropriately, practice weighs significantly on risk which is of little benefit to young adults who wish to give up crime, and indeed may compound their likelihood of remaining involved with the criminal justice system.
68.There is limited evidence on the interventions which work effectively to reduce offending by young adults. This is partially due to the fact that young adults have not been clearly defined by the Ministry of Justice or NOMS as a group warranting differential treatment. Neither have they actively sought to understand what interventions work best with this cohort. It is important that this is addressed urgently as misdirected interventions can serve to increase criminality in young adult offenders.
69.The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) revisions to the Code of Conduct for Crown Prosecutors in 2012 included the addition of a consideration regarding the suspect’s age or maturity as part of the public interest test in weighing up whether a prosecution should be brought. We discussed this with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders QC, in December 2015 and she explained to us that she felt it ought to be considered in cases where people were “extremely immature” in their behaviours. On the basis of research on investigating prosecutors’ knowledge of maturity the Criminal Justice Alliance concluded:
Compelling prosecutors to take maturity into consideration has not meant they will do so consistently, similarly to the judiciary, as the concept itself is extremely complicated, with neurological, sociological and psychological aspects to it. Prosecutors remain uneasy with the topic and struggle to explain it when asked. Although some appreciate its intricacies a larger number conflate it to knowing the difference between right and wrong. Many don’t have sufficient knowledge of what maturity is.
70.Former Solicitor General, Vera Baird QC, now Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, did not believe that prosecutors had sufficient information on which to make assessments of maturity. When we put this to Alison Saunders she did not disagree. The reliance of the CPS in making their assessments on information provided by the police, local authorities, including education and social services, and defendants’ legal representatives was noted by several witnesses. The CPS acknowledged that it is not unusual for prosecutors to receive limited information from the police on a defendant’s level of maturity unless they are considered also to be particularly vulnerable or have “significant learning cognitive behaviour mental health difficulties”, although they are trained to request additional information and routinely do so. On the other hand, as we discuss in chapter 1, our evidence indicates that cognitive deficits, learning and communication difficulties and mental illnesses which impact on maturity are under-diagnosed in young people involved in the criminal justice system so such issues may never come to the attention of the CPS. Dr Delmage observed that he never gets requests regarding assessments of ‘mens rea’ i.e. whether the accused had the necessary mental state or degree of fault in committing the offence.
71.The CPS monitors prosecutors’ compliance with the Code, but has not conducted any specific evaluation of the impact of the maturity consideration, or whether prosecutors routinely have sufficient information to assess maturity. The Director of Public Prosecutions told us she might consider such an evaluation.
72.In addition to the two distinct sentences described in paragraphs 33 and 34, some steps have been taken to emphasise maturity as a consideration in the sentencing process. The Sentencing Council now includes “[a]ge and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender” as a mitigating factor in its sentencing guidelines. In considering its application in sentencing decisions the court will be dependent on the information brought before it by either the National Probation Service or the defence in order to make a judgment. The Magistrates Association described to us how magistrates currently address this:
Magistrates take into account any personal circumstances and vulnerabilities when sentencing, and where possible and appropriate, maturity is one such factor. Having maturity on the list of mitigating factors can be a reminder to take account of it, especially if the defendant shows signs of immaturity, so can make a difference to sentencing.
With regard to the information provided to them about a young adult’s maturity they noted that if it is raised as mitigation:
… magistrates need sufficient information to be available to them in order to make a judgement. Magistrates can also engage with an individual before sentencing which can assist them in coming to a decision about maturity.[ … ] The factors which could help inform decisions on maturity include family background, educational history, information from relevant professionals, employment history and additional information from probation.
73.As this evidence illustrates, in similarity with the situation for prosecutors, the level of information that is made available to sentencers will vary depending upon whether, and to what extent, the young person has previously been involved with the criminal justice system, what information is contained in a pre-sentence report (PSR)—produced orally or in writing by the National Probation Service to assist the sentencing court—medical reports requested by the court, and defence mitigation. Several of our witnesses questioned whether courts had access to the necessary information on which to sentence young adults on the basis of their maturity and other needs. The British Psychological Society did not believe this could be the case given the level of undiagnosed learning disabilities and developmental disorders amongst young adults which we outlined in Chapter 2. Similarly, with regard to clinical assessment for mental illness, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Dr Delmage noted that few young adults are given thorough mental health court reports due to funding restrictions. The Chair of the Magistrates Association, Mr Malcolm Richardson, had conducted a straw poll with some colleagues and found that maturity had not regularly been raised with them in court. He also acknowledged that magistrates had difficulty defining maturity, even with the intervention of advocates, noting that although there was now greater awareness by magistrates of mental health needs, there was limited training of magistrates operating in the adult court on maturity, communication difficulties, or acquired brain injury.
74.In relation to pre-sentence reports (PSRs), although probation practitioners tasked with devising them are trained in completing assessments, including consideration of maturity, at the time we commenced our inquiry these assessments were not mandatory except where the young adult had drug or alcohol problems which are directly linked to the offence. The MoJ explained that maturity assessments take time to complete and noted that the courts have to balance the benefit to be gained from allowing a longer adjournment to allow one to be completed, and whether the PSR will make any difference to the sentence, against the potential impact on the young person. The Sentencing Council assisted us in understanding the impact of the inclusion of age and/or lack of maturity in its guidelines by analysing crown court data on the operation of sentencing guidelines in 2014. The Council compared the prevalence of the mitigating factor “age and/or lack of maturity affecting responsibility” in sentencing decisions made using the Sentencing Council’s guidelines and “age” for offences sentenced using its predecessors’ guidelines which have not yet been re-issued. The analysis indicates that these factors have been used differently. Across all sentencing decisions for all ages, “age” was taken into account in 25% of cases and “age and/or lack of maturity” in 9% of cases, but the proportion varied by offence type. The Council’s likely explanation for this was that the latter factor was being interpreted as “age and lack of maturity”. The Council also analysed how these factors were applied by age range. “Age and/or lack of maturity” was taken into account in 28% of cases of 18 to 21 year olds and 6% of 22 to 29 year olds, whereas “age” was applied in 59% of cases of 18 to 21 year olds and 6% of 22 to 29 year olds.
75.When we commenced our inquiry, NOMS’ guidance on PSRs did not explicitly mention an assessment of maturity. In its written evidence NOMS undertook to revisit this and revised guidance has now been issued stating that PSRs completed on 18 to 24 year old offenders must include consideration of maturity. Colin Allars confirmed that young adults receive a PSR in the overwhelming majority of cases. Malcolm Richardson, Chair of the Magistrates’ Association, welcomed the “framework and insight” that maturity assessments would provide to magistrates.
76.Current approaches to the treatment of young adults involved in the criminal justice system are not consistently developmentally appropriate. They do not sufficiently recognise the strong evidence on brain development, maturity, and the impact of cognitive impairments on how young adults experience the system. Neither do they seek to lessen the potentially detrimental effects of the system itself on development. The system is therefore not as effective as it could be in reducing offending by young adults, or improving their life chances following their involvement within it, and in some cases their treatment further compounds the problem.
77.We welcome the inclusion of considerations of maturity in the Crown Prosecutors’ Code and Sentencing Council guidelines. However, it is not clear what impact these efforts to reflect the maturational development of young adults have had in practice. Neither CPS investigating prosecutors nor sentencers have a sufficiently sophisticated understanding of maturity to weigh up how it may affect young adults’ culpability. In addition they do not routinely have the necessary information on which to make robust assessments about an individual’s maturity and hence take account of this in their reasoned prosecution and sentencing decisions. It is likely therefore that maturity is only considered primarily in cases where there is extreme immaturity.
78.Despite there being similarities in the needs of under 18s and young adults involved in the criminal justice system the policies and structures that apply to children vary greatly from those that apply to young adults. Much of this is determined by legal entitlements and rights. There is a requirement within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that children and adults will not be held together in custody, for example. Under the legislative framework for children who offend there are distinct governing principles, courts and sentencing regimes. The youth justice system is also better resourced, facilitating smaller caseloads and more intensive intervention from a range of agencies.
79.The transition between youth justice and adult criminal justice services can be especially challenging and some of our witnesses emphasised the significance of handling carefully these transitions. Hannah Doughty said that young people likened the change in levels of support at the age of 18 to “dropping off a cliff”. For example, the YJB recognised that this was a period of particular importance due to the risk of losing any gains that had been made in the youth justice system. Dr Gooch highlighted the sensitivities required in managing young adults effectively:
In our research about the way young people behave when they transition, we found that some are very vulnerable at the point of coming into a young adult YOI, where they perhaps look very green and naive and may be at greater risk of victimisation. On the flipside, it is interesting that some of those who have been in a juvenile YOI have quite a lot of custodial experience when they come into a young adult young offenders institution. There is a degree of sophistication in their behaviour, so they are perhaps more likely to engage in violence and bullying and may come into conflict with staff more. However, they lack real maturity in their thinking and behaviour, which can make them quite a challenging group to respond to in custody.
80.One of the major issues is the disconnectedness between services which means information held by the youth offending team and other supporting agencies, including health, does not follow the offender to the new service. Both Poppy Harrison of the YJB and Colin Allars of the NPS acknowledged to us that information sharing was a particular problem. To help with this the YJB had recently developed a web-based tool, the Youth to Adult Portal (Y2A), which supports information sharing between YOTs and probation services as well as young adult YOIs. The onus is placed on CRCs and NPS requesting information from YOTs and it was being used by 90% of services in January 2016. Nevertheless, Colin Allars recognised that the portal was not the whole solution and that it was equally important for youth offending teams and probation services to interact effectively. He, Ms Doughty and Ms Harrison agreed that relationships between youth offending and probation services were generally good and Angela Cossins felt confident that the right processes were in place, despite some glitches which the NPS sought quickly to address.
81.The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have prompted the refresh of the multi-agency partnership arrangements necessary to support effective transitions from youth to adult youth justice services. Guidance has been updated and new joint protocols for YOTs, National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) have been devised both for England and Wales. We heard that some youth offending services had very good transition arrangements, for example, in Liverpool cases are jointly managed by YOTs and probation for six to eight months.
82.On the other hand, some witnesses had found that structural changes to probation services under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms had complicated the transition. For example, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons reported that transition arrangements had deteriorated over the last couple of years. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Youth Offending Service said it had “added an extra layer and more confusion”, referring to the need for YOTs to work with two probation services: the NPS and CRC, as both are involved in the transfer in recognition of the increase in risk. The data sharing issues identified above had also become more difficult in the experience of Durham Tees Valley CRC and the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (MOPAC). Michael Spurr assured us that it had been a priority not to disrupt efforts to improve these transitions during the implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. Angela Cossins believed that the creation of NPS had enabled the development of a common framework for working with all youth offending teams.
83.In recognition of the challenges of transition it has become established practice for there to be some flexibility for young people who reach the age of 18 to remain in the youth justice system to complete their sentence, rather than being transferred to adult prisons and probation services, if it is decided appropriate by the YJB and NPS based on the needs of the young person, their maturity and risk factors. We requested statistics from the YJB on how many young adults were currently being handled in this way. They were unable to provide a direct count but as a proxy measure they told us that 6,503 young people were due to turn 18 before the end of their sentence in 2014/15. Approximately 10% of those held in the youth estate are 18. Nevertheless, as we heard from the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers, this practice is resource dependent. Andrew Hillas, one of the heads of young adult services at London CRC, told us that in-year reductions in youth justice funding appeared to be impacting on YOTs’ readiness to retain young people over the age of 18:
We are beginning to see the effects of that, as they are transferring far more young people to adult services than they customarily used to do. Obviously it is for them to decide whether or not a young person gets transferred when they turn 18. Previously they did not transfer that many in London. Now we are getting significantly more, so there is a resource implication for us.
84.The impact on young adults of moving away from the better resourced and more supportive environment of the youth justice system to adult services may be stark and require intensive management. Strong leadership has been exercised by YJB, NPS and NOMS in recognising the critical importance of this transition and the risk that the process of implementing the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms might undermine existing practice. Although there is some evidence that these arrangements are not always working well, particularly in relation to the sharing of data, we welcome the robust measures that they have put into place to ensure strong partnership working and the necessary information sharing to minimise the disruption young adults face in navigating the inevitable fault line between the services. We note that there is potential for resource pressures to undermine the established practice of youth offending teams retaining young adults who become 18 while they finish serving their sentence with the risk that any progress made in the youth justice system could be lost.
85.Advocates, sentencers and prosecutors are not sufficiently cognisant of brain development and neuro-disabilities for several reasons. Our evidence suggests that they tend to pick up those who are manifestly immature compared to their peers, and therefore perhaps the most serious cases, but they do not appear to be considering these matters for young adults as a matter of course. Practices therefore do not reflect adequately the evidence on typical brain development.
53 [Andrew Selous MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation]
55 National Offender Management Service, , August 2015, London: NOMS.
56 Ministry of Justice (); See also [Mr Pascoe]
58 [Mr Spurr] [Mr Selous]
60 [Mr Hillas]; [Mr Pascoe]
63 Ministry of Justice (); Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); [Ms Strong]
64 When those aged under 21 are held with older adults, they do not share cells. In some institutions they are held in distinct units, but the majority mix. [Mr Selous]
66 House of Commons Justice Committee, , Sixth Report of Session 2015–16, HC 625
67 HM Inspectorate Of Prisons ()
68 Adjudication outcomes 2014; Assaults on staff by age December 2015; Ministry of Justice (); HM Inspectorate Of Prisons (); Zahid Mubarek Trust ()
69 HM Inspectorate Of Prisons ()
70 Ibid.; See also [Mr Pascoe]
72 [Mr Pascoe]; Justice Committee Oral evidence: , HC 859, 16 March 2016, ; See also Qq ;
78 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance()
80 See for example Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); Ministry of Justice (); [Mr Greenhalgh]
82 Transition to Adulthood, , endorsed by the Ministry of Justice ()
83 [Dr Hughes];Royal College of Psychiatrists (); British Psychological Society (); Professor Huw Williams ()
84 National Offender Management Service, , August 2015, London: NOMS; National Offender Management Service, , September 2015, London: NOMS.
85 The Zahid Mubarek Trust ()
86 [Mr Pascoe]
88 [Mr Allars]
89 [Baroness Young; Mr Crook]
92 . See also [Dr Gooch]
94 National Offender Management Service ()
95 [Mr Hillas]
96 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); British Psychological Society (); Professor Huw Williams ()
98 GMC CRC (); Durham Tees Valley CRC (); DLNR CRC/ The Yap! ()
99 [Dr Chitsabesan; Professor Bottoms]; Q138 [Baroness Young]; UKABIF (), Barrow Cadbury Trust/Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance (), Dr Nathan Hughes (), Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (), British Psychological Society (), Headway (); Professor Huw Williams ()
100 Ministry of Justice (); Ministry of Justice ()
101 Ministry of Justice (); Ministry of Justice ()
102 [Dr Chitsabesan]; UKABIF ()
104 [Baroness Young]
105 [Mr Selous]
106 , p4
108 British Association of Social Workers (); Criminal Justice Alliance (); Durham Tees Valley CRC (); Headway (); NACRO ( Inquest (); Northumbria, PCC (); Prison Reform Trust ()
109 Royal College of Psychiatrists (); See also NACRO (); Inquest ()
112 See also Inquest (); Prison Advice And Care Trust (); A constituent of Robert Buckland MP ()
113 Prison Advice And Care Trust ()
114 Equality And Human Rights Commission ()
120 HM Inspectorate Of Prisons ()
123 [Dr Gooch]
126 The Zahid Mubarek Trust ()
127 University of Birmingham ();
128 [Dr Gooch]
129 [Mr Kastner]
132 ; See also [Mr Crook]
133 BTEG (Black Training & Enterprise Group) ()
136 [Mr Selous].
137 [Mr Selous]
139 Royal College of Psychiatrists (); University of Birmingham (); The Howard League for Penal Reform (); University of Birmingham (); The Zahid Mubarek Trust (); [Dr Gooch] See also , p41. IEP is a system where privileges, in addition to minimum entitlements, can be granted to prisoners or young offenders subject to their reaching and maintaining specified standards of conduct and performance. These can be removed if expected standards are not maintained. It is intended to encourage prisoners to behave responsibly, to participate in constructive activity, and to progress through the system
140 University of Birmingham ()
141 [Dr Gooch]; Nepacs (unpublished); The Zahid Mubarek Trust ()
142 University of Birmingham ()
143 HM Inspectorate Of Prisons ()
144 University of Birmingham ()
145 , p10
147 Justice Committee Oral evidence: , HC 669, Tuesday 15 December 2015, Q131
148 See also Criminal Justice Alliance, , August 2013
150 Justice Committee Oral evidence: , HC 669, Tuesday 15 December 2015,
151 [Mr Caplan QC]; Ministry of Justice (Criminal Justice Alliance ; HC 669, [Alison Saunders QC]
157 The Magistrates’ Association ()
159 See for example, Royal College of Psychiatrists (); Criminal Justice Alliance (); Royal College of Psychiatrists ()
160 British Psychological Society ()
161 Royal College of Psychiatrists (); [Dr Delmage]
162 [Mr Richardson]
163 [Mr Richardson].
165 NB: These data are subject to a number of caveats detailed in the submission.
166 National Offender Management Service, Probation Instruction (04/2016)
167 [National Offender Management Service]
169 Addaction (); Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); Prisoners’ Education Trust (); British Association of Social Workers (); Youth Justice Board ()
171 [Ms Hinnigan]; [Lord McNally]
173 [Lord McNally]
174 [Ms Harrison]; [Mr Allars]
175 [Ms Hinnigan]; Youth Justice Board ()
176 [Ms Hinnigan]
179 Youth Justice Board (); National Offender Management Service in Wales and Youth Justice Board, , undated; National Offender Management Service, National Probation Service and Youth Justice Board, , 2015
180 Cornwall & Isles Of Scilly Youth Offending Service (); Q373 [Mr Hillas]; Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime ()
181 [Mr Estep]
182 Cornwall & Isles Of Scilly Youth Offending Service (); [Ms Hinnigan]; See also [Ms Doughty]
183 [Mr Ripley]; Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime ()
184 [Mr Spurr]
186 [Ms Doughty]
187 [Ms Hinnigan]
188 [Ms Doughty]
24 October 2016