86.Our witnesses suggested a range of options for improving the responsiveness of the system to make it more developmentally appropriate to the needs of young adults and hence more effective. In this Chapter we consider those options for change seen in the context of the new thinking about the needs and characteristics of young adults, and the current arrangements for their treatment by the criminal justice system described in the preceding chapters of this report. In examining these options we focus particular attention on courts and the sentencing process and on the management of young adults in custody. We also consider throughout this chapter what could be adopted from the distinct approach that is already taken to the treatment of under 18s. Our consideration of options for change directly informs the draft strategy for treatment of young adults which we set out as our principal recommendations in the final chapter of this report.
87.The majority of our witnesses advocated developing approaches which would assume young adults are classified as those aged 18 to 25. Reflecting the fact that the development of maturity is a process, and is not linear, several witnesses advocated an adaptable system that recognises maturity rather than focusing rigidly on chronological age, although it was recognised that accommodating both approaches within the system would be possible. Operating a criminal justice system which would treat young adults on the basis of maturity would require systematic screening and assessment, training to raise awareness and adapt practices, as well as an understanding of developmentally appropriate practices, underpinned by a common understanding of the measure of maturity adopted. The evidence presented in chapter 2 illustrates that although the Government, criminal justice agencies and other bodies are seeking to recognise maturity in their policies and practices routinely, none of these requisites are currently fulfilled.
88.Many of our witnesses cited the youth justice system as an example of a model for improving the effectiveness of provision for young adults. Suggested approaches included extending the remit of the Youth Justice Board and youth offending teams to young adults or adopting something similar to youth justice system’s multi-disciplinary approach—which has been seen as instrumental in reducing the number of under 18s both in the system and in custody—as well as creating a defined statutory purpose, facilitating smaller caseloads, broadening assessments, and sentencing provisions. At the heart of Lord Harris’s review were recommendations that would enhance support to young adults in prisons, akin to some of these suggestions. He proposed that NOMS develop more sophisticated assessment of risk and needs for young adults and refresh the subsequent process of planning and support to young adults, including by strengthening positive adult relationships with a dedicated officer qualified in social work or youth work, and ensuring that better links are maintained with families. All three suggestions were rejected by the Government, as was his recommendation of a statutory duty of collaboration to ensure relevant information on young adults was shared as a higher priority.
89.Although the youth justice system has been subject to various reviews over the last eighteen months there has been limited systematic consideration of young adults’ policy by the MoJ. For example, the question of the capacity of youth offending teams to take on additional responsibilities does not appear to have been considered by the YJB or the MoJ in reviews which took place at the end of the last Parliament. The former Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, indicated to us that there would be merit in a review of arrangements for young adults in the criminal justice system, but Charlie Taylor’s independent review of the youth justice system commissioned by the MoJ and which is yet to report remained focused on under 18s. Nevertheless, one outcome of his appraisal might be significant legislative change regarding the provision of youth justice services, which could provide a timely opportunity also to consider the legislative status of those aged 18 to 24 as the Children and Families Act 2014 did by enhancing statutory support for care leavers up to 21 in recognition of their ongoing need for family support.
90.Since April 2014 in the Netherlands youth justice provisions have been be applied to young adults up to the age of 23, partly in response to a shrinking youth justice cohort similar to that which has been seen in England and Wales. While representatives of the YJB acknowledged the potential value of treating young adults distinctly, both Lord McNally, Chair of the YJB, and Lin Hinnigan, then Chief Executive, believed it important to maintain a youth justice system that reflected specific entitlements and statutory protections for children and hence did not support extending their remit. The YJB was cautious of funds being diverted from services for children:
It is… a reality that in an environment where budgets are reducing, resources will increasingly need to be focused on delivering core, statutory services, and we would not wish to see services to children diluted by being diverted from their core business in favour of supporting young adults.
91.We also heard arguments that extending the age range upwards might simply postpone the problem of transition. Regarding the most appropriate point at which young people should transfer, the YJB noted that the movement from one type of service provider to another is inevitable at some point and suggested that a later transition date may not be beneficial. Others, including representatives of the Magistrates Association, were not convinced that there was sufficient evidence of the benefits to justify the additional expenditure. We asked Colin Allars, then Director of the National Probation Service, what he thought would be a good cut off point for when a youth transfers from YOT to probation. He said:
As a policy point, I should not give a view on what the right solution might be. We have tried to ensure that in the early years, post-transition, the interventions we put in place support what has been started before. As things sit at the moment, that is the key thing we need to get right so that they do not just drop off a cliff … but there is continuity and we are putting in place the right sort of support and interventions that support that transition.
92.Several witnesses including YJB, T2A, Prisoners Education Trust and Addaction believed that transitional support should limit the arbitrary removal of all individually focused support ahead of becoming recognised as an ‘adult’, including mental health provision, substance misuse treatment, education, and housing. This would be reliant on other public services recognising that over 18s had distinct needs. On the other hand, T2A and St Giles Trust believed that criminal justice agencies should compensate for other services tailing off on reaching ‘adulthood’ as it is currently defined at 18 by continuing to provide intensive and well-resourced support.
93.Basing a system on maturity requires the development of systematic screening tools and assessments. Several witnesses proposed adapting existing models used in the youth justice system, to enable the focus of their treatment by the criminal justice system to be responsive to individual needs. As we noted in chapter 2, the ability to screen for neuro-disabilities to identify those requiring proper assessment is a particular gap. Several witnesses proposed adapting the Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool (CHAT), of which there are prison and community versions, developed for the Department of Health and the Youth Justice Board. One section of this seeks to identify ‘suspected need’ related to neuro-developmental disorders such as learning disability, autistic spectrum disorders and speech, language and communication needs, and also includes assessment for brain injury.
94.Dr Chitsabesan, who was involved in the development of the tool, believed that three forms of testing were necessary for young adults, which were not all included within the CHAT: i) mental health needs and neuro-developmental disorders and needs ii) maturity and iii) neuro-psychological testing and impairment. We understand this is being used informally in some young adult YOIs. As we described in chapter 2, NOMS ambitions to develop a maturity assessment fall a long way short of this, although we were told that NICE guidelines are being drawn up on mental health and neuro-disability which will include assessment, screening and potential interventions for people in prison. The Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC uses a tool devised by the Calderstone’s learning disability team in Lancashire. It is not a diagnostic tool, but allows all professionals working with the client to understand how best to communicate with and supervise the young adult. Improving screening is likely to reveal that young adults need access to specialist assessments and where necessary clinical input will be required.
95.The youth justice system operates on the assumption that those involved in it should be treated as children first, with regard to the principal aim of preventing offending and their welfare. T2A and others wished to see awareness raising training on maturity, neuro-science and brain development related to young adults being available systematically to practitioners including the CPS, sentencers, defence lawyers and the NPS (particularly pre-sentence report writers). The evidence we presented in chapter 2 indicates that the CPS, sentencers and defence lawyers would benefit from this and that awareness of maturity should form a part of basic training for both probation practitioners and prison staff. Maslaha and Baroness Young made a compelling case for initial and ongoing training to enable practitioners to understand and adapt to cultural and religious differences.
96.We understand the Youth Justice Board’s reticence to extend the youth justice system to young adults, and agree that this is not a worthwhile solution given the statutory context. Nevertheless, arbitrary removal of support at the age of 18 does not reflect the evidence on brain development and maturation and the Government is obliged to take account of age under international human rights law relating to detention. It would be counterproductive if reductions in statutory funding affects the extended support provided to some young adults by the youth justice system.
97.The evidence amassed by T2A indicates that with the right intervention, one that takes account of the developmental maturity and particular needs of this group, young adults are far more likely to ‘grow out of crime’. Conversely, inappropriate intervention at this time can slow desistance and extend the period of involvement in the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, there is limited concrete research on the range of services and interventions that might be effective in helping young adults to address their offending and improve outcomes. For example, generic interventions do not tend to be very effective as they are not adapted to learning or language problems, or the implications of head injury, yet there are few age-specific programmes and means of addressing neuro-disabilities. The British Psychological Society and Dr Hughes believed that specific therapeutic programmes for young adults would better improve the outcomes of rehabilitative work by taking into account development and learning styles and providing additional support or appropriate modifications to facilitate better, more mature decision-making.
98.We explored with our witnesses the impact of the MoJ and NOMS existing approach towards young adults, in particular the provision of guidance, on the developmental appropriateness of practice in courts and within prisons and probation services, and knowledge of what might be effective. While the MoJ and NPS acknowledged the need for better research evidence on effective practice with young adults, little has been done centrally to develop the evidence base. Dr Gooch attributed this to the absence of distinct approaches “ … we do not know what works, but we are not trying to put in place any interventions to help to form a view about what the evidence might be on what programmes might work.” T2A wished to see more research on psycho-social maturation, including on how maturity is influenced by family experiences, such as the strength of attachments, by culture or by a variety of developmental difficulties such as learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum disorders, and traumatic brain injury. The Government’s approach not to define young adults as having distinct needs and accordingly to facilitate appropriate responses has limited opportunities to further collective knowledge on effective practice. With the right intervention, one that takes account of the developmental maturity and particular needs of this group, young adults are far more likely to ‘grow out of crime’.
99.Mat Ilic of Catch 22 described the components of effective treatment for young adults as ‘three Ps’: people, place and purpose:
It is about having the right people around you, being in a safe place—a place you can relate to and can gain strength from—and having a purpose, which is something meaningful to do.
We keep these in mind as we examine the options presented to us for augmenting the effectiveness of courts and the delivery of custodial and community sentences for young adults.
100.Problems with attention, memory and executive functions limit capacity to engage in rehabilitative efforts to change behaviour, such as the ability to pay attention, remember and execute advice. Dr Hughes explained that to make interventions more appropriate to impairments sessions ought to be shorter but more frequent and repetitive of the key things that practitioners are trying to get the person to engage with, and should focus on life skills. Although such initiatives are rare, they are emerging. For example, we heard that HM YOI Feltham had recently been autism accredited and HMP Leeds, an adult male prison, had piloted a linkworker scheme following pilots in establishments for under 18s, with the support of the Disabilities Trust Foundation, for people in custody with ADHD and brain injury to support better management of these vulnerabilities through bespoke interventions and training of staff.
101.Some witnesses presented the case for more emphasis to be placed on raising aspirations to counter the negative self-images that some young adults hold. Professor Bottoms introduced us to the concept of ‘assisted desistance’, whereby rehabilitative efforts are focused on promoting the impetus of individuals to stop offending. One area that is under-developed but seen as important to this at this stage in development is enabling young adults to gain positive self-identities and build resilience as they take steps towards a law-abiding life. Baroness Young, Mr Hillas, Catch 22 and St Giles Trust emphasised the importance of using role models who reflect, and are therefore trusted by, different cultural groups and can provide motivational support. For example, Baroness Young spoke of the importance of acknowledging the impact of racism and discrimination on identities and experiences of BAME young adults: “It is about looking at all those issues—not disregarding them but as the same time not seeing them as an excuse—self-reflecting and trying to enable those young men to develop their resilience and desistance”. She also explained the benefits of recognising strengths within those who have committed crime:
The kinds of skills you learn as a drug dealer or whatever in criminality are transferable skills, like it or not. What we have to do … is harness some of that energy, know-how, nous and entrepreneurialism for something that is good and productive and contributes to the growth of society, our community and our mutual acceptance within that. Until we can see those issues through that prism—if we continually see it as a battle as one thing against another—we will not make too much headway.
102.Similarly, relationship-based approaches seek to replicate positive parenting models, to understand the life journeys of youth adults and seeks to reinforce positive behaviour to support the maturation process, whilst also holding them to account. We were told of the existence of a number of such programmes, including individual and group based mentoring by former offenders and other positive role models. For example, Jeremy Crook explained that BTEG provides training and careers advice delivered by black men who run successful businesses. Young men and women themselves spoke highly to us of initiatives that encouraged and assisted them to re-define themselves and see a future outside the criminal justice system, including the value of gender-specific support and opportunities for them to become mentors, or advisers themselves. For example, A Band of Brothers provides male communities of support for young men and both St Giles Trust and User Voice employ former offenders to support those currently in the system. Bex Mullins of Advance Minerva had found it was important to some young women to access female only services in which they would feel safer.
103.Strengths-based and relationship-based approaches are often provided by the voluntary sector which can be more flexible, adaptive and creative as it has the benefit of not being encumbered by statutory imperatives regarding enforcement, for example. These can be more credible to young adults, promoting engagement amongst those who may have a mistrust of authority. Young adults themselves told us that having a supportive adult who believed in them, saw their value, and emphasised their strengths made the biggest difference to them stopping offending. Nevertheless, such programmes are under-resourced and are reliant on specialised staff with appropriate training to give them the tools to reflect in their practice developmentally appropriate activity such as role modelling, promoting and maintaining positive behaviour, and clearly defining behavioural boundaries. St Giles Trust lamented the fact that “ … time and resources are not on hand to encourage the most disengaged young offenders to engage with any support and services on offer.” Specialisation could facilitate a more nuanced approach to address needs more effectively and limit the damage to development that can result from involvement in the criminal justice system.
104.The importance of personal interaction and individualised support to young adult prisoners was reflected in one of Lord Harris’s central recommendations which was rejected by the Government. He called for a Care and Resettlement Officer who would get to know young adults as individuals and could act to ensure that each person on their small caseload gets the education, rehabilitation and healthcare they need. There was some agreement among our witnesses that specialist support was necessary, even if it was not the specific role that Lord Harris proposed. Professor Williams felt it was important for someone both to support young adults in engaging with their rehabilitation, to promote the process of change and increase their resistance to peer group pressure and to co-ordinate their care. He believed lessons could be learnt from the health sector in managing mental health issues and brain inquiry by developing packages of care which have continuity. Baroness Young emphasised the need for credibility as young adults require trust in those seeking to support them to stop offending. In relation to prisons she said “An atmosphere or a culture needs to be created in which it is possible for people to talk about their insecurities, anxieties and difficulties and to be quite open and honest about some of the issues that come up around race, culture and ethnicity, in order to move forward.” Bex Mullins who works with young women gave us an example of a case which illustrates how forming relationships can help practitioners build up a picture of needs:
I have worked with a young woman who was arrested for a drunk and disorderly offence. There was no way that the police would have known that she was gang involved, but when I started working with her and built a relationship with her, a lot of information came out about how she was escorting young girls in care to prison to see gang members and how she was cleaning money through her account. That only comes out when you have a relationship with someone.
Explaining why the Government did not accept Lord Harris’s recommendation, Mr Selous emphasised that safety should be the responsibility of everyone working in prisons. Nevertheless, he undertook to revisit Lord Harris’s recommendations as part of their prison reform agenda.
105.Another means of building supportive relationships is the involvement of young adults’ family—including those young adults were raised in and those that they are forming themselves—and wider networks of support. There is an increasing recognition of their potential effectiveness in supporting resettlement, although several of our witnesses pointed out that this is not without risk as some families may themselves be involved in crime. St Giles Trust proposed that young adults’ whole family situations should be looked at and supported in order to reduce the likelihood of reoffending on release. The Government placed value on this, as happens in youth justice system, but as there is no legislative basis for it doing it relies on the young adults’ consent and families’ willingness to participate.
106.Relationships with trusted, credible, and understanding practitioners and with supportive families and other networks are of critical importance in comprehending as fully as possible the nature of young adults’ risks and vulnerabilities and supporting them to stop offending and developing their resilience and maturity. We agree with the Ministry that safety in prisons should be everyone’s responsibility, but in failing to accept one of the central recommendations of the Harris Review—that young adults in custody need a designated person to engage, challenge, and support the—it has undervalued the role they would play in fostering desistance.
107.Several of our witnesses including T2A believed that developmental maturity should be given greater consideration in the criminal court processes for young adults, including sentencing. The Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) observed that “the allocation of people within the court system continues to be driven purely by the chronological age of the defendant, rather than in specific response to individuals’ developmental maturity or needs.” Max Rutherford believed that sentencing should be more tailored to meet the specific needs of this age group and while much could be achieved within the existing sentencing framework, legislation would enable more. For example, in some jurisdictions, notably Germany, young adults are sentenced in accordance with their maturity. Youth courts choose either juvenile or adult law for young adults on the basis of maturity of the individual and their distinct needs, allowing more flexibility in sentencing.
108.The Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) examined for T2A the feasibility of dedicated courts delivering distinct arrangements for young adults without legislative change. They proposed that:
(1)All young adult cases could be allocated to specialist youth magistrates and judges who currently deal with 10 to 17 year olds and who are already eligible to hear adult cases.
(2)These courts could apply existing adult legislation, but would receive pre-sentence reports with additional focus on levels of maturity and information about the context of the offence.
(3)The principles of ‘procedural fairness’ would be applied and sentencers would be made aware of disposals locally that would suit young adults (such as Attendance Centre Requirements, Intensive Community Orders, and involvement of mentors alongside supervision).
109.CJI emphasised the importance of young adults feeling that they are fairly treated in the criminal justice system and identified that young adults are more attuned to “perceptions of unfairness and signs of respect” because of their level of maturity. They cited research indicating that young peoples’ perception of their sentencer has the largest influence on their views of the overall legitimacy of the justice system, even when controlling for the outcome of their case. Notably, young people who “experienced an atmosphere of confusion and unprofessionalism tended to view the entire justice system as less legitimate” than young people who had a better court experience. Nevertheless, we heard that young adults in court may experience difficult and technical language, intimidating formal settings, and a lack of opportunity for direct engagement. Ben Estep of CJI explained that perceptions of fairness can increase compliance with court orders yet “feelings of confusion, frustration and intimidation” are particularly common among young adults during the court process. Youth magistrate Fiona Abbott emphasised the importance of young people feeling part of the process in ensuring that they start to take responsibility for their action. Grace Strong emphasised the importance of consistency of treatment to get young adults to buy-in throughout the criminal justice system.
110.According to CJI’s feasibility study, youth courts—in which specially trained magistrates talk directly to the child and their parents and use simpler language appropriate to comprehension levels and which are less formal in nature and layout—have higher procedural fairness. The potential merits of applying such approaches to defendants who may be less mature or otherwise vulnerable to ensure they understand and follow the process was endorsed by some witnesses, including Michael Caplan QC and the Magistrates Association. Others proposed the involvement of advocates for young adults, for example from the voluntary sector, to help them to understand what a sentencer will need to know.
111.The under-use of youth courts was seen as an opportunity to make alternative use of youth magistrates with their expertise in dealing developmentally appropriately with young people. Nevertheless, while the Magistrates Association agreed that lessons could be learned from the youth court system they cautioned that it not simply a question of translating practices, noting the importance of the underpinning legal framework which encourages engagement with the young person and the families. Mr Caplan cautioned against over-specialism and Mr Richardson agreed that all magistrates should have the capacity to engage effectively and individually with those who come before the court, regardless of age. On the other hand the alternative would be to increase the level of training on maturity across the whole magistracy, which would be more costly; our discussions with youth court magistrate Fiona Abbott JP indicated that even youth magistrates have limited training on brain injury and other factors affecting maturity. T2A believed that youth adult courts would be cost neutral as they would be using capacity that already exists and with CJI has initiated several pilots which it is evaluating.
112.We saw young adult courts in operation in the US where such a dedicated approach to sentencing young adults was being tested with the cooperation of the judiciary, defence and prosecution, and the support of other criminal justice agencies. For example, at Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn the judge interacts with the defendant, encouraging them to engage through a form of behavioural contract. Prosecutors will then decline to prosecute if they comply. There is on site access to programmes and a clinic staffed by social service professionals who use trauma- and evidence-informed approaches to assess and connect individuals to appropriate services, including drug and mental health treatment. Research at the Center suggests that court users are more likely to be treated fairly across socio-economic, racial and cultural background. A problem-solving approach specifically for young adults aged 18 to 24 had also been recently adopted at Brooklyn Criminal Court having been tested with 16 and 17 year olds who were previously treated as adults. Here the emphasis was placed on limiting interventions where risk allowed. We were struck by the judiciary’s encouragement of engagement with the support networks of defendants, despite there being no legislative basis for it. The Ministry of Justice’s attitude to problem-solving courts under the new Justice Secretary is not yet clear.
113.Consideration of maturity and understanding of the need for developmentally appropriate treatment is intrinsic in youth court processes, including training for magistrates. Extending these approaches to young adults without changing the legislative framework would capitalise on trained youth magistrates whose expertise is underused due to falling caseloads in youth justice. While these principles could be applied to all criminal court processes, we recognise that the costs of training all sentencers to take a developmentally appropriate approach would be prohibitive. We look forward to hearing more from the Government about its potential plans for expanding the use of problem-solving courts when they announce their proposals for court reform.
114.Some witnesses were keen to impress on us that improving the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system was not solely a Ministry of Justice issue. Overcoming the structural barriers noted in chapter 1 and fostering effective early intervention and diversion would require a more co-ordinated cross-government approach. This was seen to be especially important for the young adults who lacked other support systems, in particular care leavers, and who were especially likely to need multi-agency support. The Howard League’s legal caseload illustrated that young care leavers in prison often do not receive the support they are statutorily entitled to. In common with Lord Harris’s findings the bereaved families we spoke to had recognised that their sons needed help before they ended up in custody but had been unable to find appropriate support for them.
115.We heard about the value of multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches necessary to reflect the multiple factors underlying young adults’ offending. Police and Crime Commissioners can play a role in facilitating such initiatives. For example, MOPAC recognised the gap in provision for young adults and made them a strategic priority—as 10% of London CRC’s caseload are 18-20 year olds who have transferred from the youth justice system and due to their higher reoffending rate than older adults—and has co-commissioned services with London CRC, local authorities and NHS London, including a “Gripping the Offender” pilot, taking a ‘whole system approach’ to young adults, a gang exit scheme, and victims’ services. Regarding the latter, the former deputy mayor of London, Stephen Greenhalgh, saw it as important that young people are also disproportionately victims of crime, and can be both perpetrators and victims, highlighting the need to manage risk and vulnerability. The PCC’s role complements London CRC’s prioritisation of support to 18 to 25 year olds with access to an enhanced intervention, including support for family relationships.. In Boston, we visited ROCA, a programme that seeks to motivate and engage young people at risk, including gang members, recognising their maturity by offering access to support and training, non-judgmentally and without statutory funding or direct links to criminal justice agencies. This enables young adults to develop life and employment skills at their own pace within a safe space, which may take several years. Mr Greenhalgh raised questions about funding for multi-agency initiatives believed that greater devolution of budgets could facilitate system reform to enable better management and a specific focus on the relatively small number of 18 to 24 year olds who place great demands on the criminal justice system due to their prolific offending. These are interesting issues but it is not within the scope of this inquiry to examine the case for criminal justice devolution.
116.Some Community Rehabilitation Companies have also created forums for those under the supervision of probation services to access a range of agencies and non-statutory organisations which can be tailored to young adults or women. Both London CRC and DTV CRC have adopted the “hub” approach and emphasised the benefits of delivering services in localities in which service users reside, in community buildings with no association with probation or the criminal justice system, which can reinforce negative perceptions of self. London CRC’s Croydon Hub provides young adults aged 18 to 25 referred by both the CRC and NPS with access to organisations and businesses which can provide advice, support and education, training and employment opportunities under one roof. Service users attend a six week programme, are generally low to medium risk of harm. Mr Hillas emphasised the importance of the quality and cultural relevance of the partnership agencies engaged in the hub to ensure buy-in by young people. Hubs are not the only solution to working across agencies as they can be resource intensive and can cause problems around territory related to gangs. St Giles Trust takes an outreach approach, embedding specialist youth, gangs and resettlement workers in other statutory teams.
117.The majority of our witnesses were supportive of retention of the sentence of detention in a young offender institution and proposed it be extended to 24. The Ministry of Justice has recognised that “the operating model for the custodial estate will need to take account of the distinctive needs and differences of young adults.” Nevertheless, as we noted in chapter 2 it remains very unclear what this means in practice. Mr Spurr explained that there were two broad options that the Government could consider:
[a]s part of the prison reform programme over the next few years … we will need to decide the right way to try to address individuals’ needs. One way is to segment by age, recognising—I agree on this absolutely—that young men do not stop being young at 20 or 21, and that maturity differs. It is perfectly reasonable, as happens in other jurisdictions, to look at young adults up to the age of 24 or 25. Whether it is right to create establishments for that group, rather than to create specialist establishments to deal with the particular needs of people within a wider age range, is complicated …
With regard to the latter he mentioned specialist establishments for sexual offences, drug treatment, and high-security as examples.
118.T2A’s view was that young adults up to the age of 25 should be held in separate establishments. Max Rutherford did not believe there would be significant costs attached to reorganising existing YOIs to hold up to 25s, and it would have the benefits of making best use of specialist staff and under-utilised prisons for 18 to 20 year olds. He cited positive examples of establishments in Neustrelitz in Germany which mixed offence categories, and HM YOI Swinfen Hall which previously held young adults up to the age of 25. He would like to see rigorous testing from Government, before they take a decision whether or not to abolish the sentence. Others recognised the benefits of holding young adults in more generic establishments of localisation and proximity to families. HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Lord Harris among others believed that there was a need for a variety of custodial settings, including designated YOIs, smaller units within adult establishments and integrated regimes and that young adults should be allocated to suitable establishments dependent upon their needs. It has been speculated that Charlie Taylor’s review of custodial provision for under 18s will similarly recommend small secure schools.
119.Neither the Inspectorate nor Lord Harris felt that the means by which decisions are currently made about which form of establishment would best suit prisoners were adequate to take account of individual needs. Lord Harris recommended the establishment of a centralised unit which would make such decisions. Nick Pascoe explained how placement decisions were made currently with regard to young adults being transferred from the youth justice system: “deciding where people go is not a tick-box exercise; it is much more personal and detailed. It is an assessment based on needs and on the individual, rather than simply a numbers exercise. Nevertheless, the evidence in chapter 2 indicates that there is not sufficient information about needs on which to base such assessments.
120.The MoJ has recognised that the operation of the custodial estate for young adults needs to change to take account of their distinctive needs but has not articulated what that means. The detention in a young offender institution (DYOI) sentence was originally conceived to offer extra protection and support to young adults because of their developing maturity. This has been rendered meaningless by the effective lack of differential treatment in the custodial estate. The extent to which the specific needs of young adults can be managed adequately, let alone effectively, in either distinct or mixed institutions is not clear. The Ministry and NOMS have not provided a robust evidential basis for their decisions to close several dedicated institutions. Indeed we have not seen any evidence that outcomes for young adults under different placement scenarios have been evaluated at all. We welcome their assurances that they are willing to revisit the government’s response to the Harris Review which has been disappointingly timid. While we welcome programmes which NOMS has recently developed under the violence reduction programme, these do not go far enough in creating developmentally appropriate responses to the management of behaviour, including violence.
121.As we noted in chapter 2, the majority of young adults aged 18 to 20 are held in mixed establishments alongside older adults. One of NOMS’ arguments for mixing young adults with older prisoners is the potentially stabilising effect on their behaviour. Although this was reinforced by some of our witnesses, including Dr Delmage, there is not consistent evidence of this. Max Rutherford described the evidence on the benefits of mixing as anecdotal. HM Inspectorate of Prisons found in its inspections that in prisons that where young adults were integrated outcomes for the young adults were generally worse. Catch 22 found in their research that older adults preferred to be separated from younger adults due to their violent behaviour and immaturity. Gooch and Treadwell questioned the validity of arguments for dissipating violence by mixing young adults with older adults:
Young adult prisoners tend to be more impulsive, less likely to engage in consequential thinking and more likely to engage in public displays of violence. However, they lack the sophistication of adult prisoners. Levels of violence in adult prisons tend to be planned, serious and sophisticated, which may explain why homicide, bar a small number of notable exceptions, only occurs in adult prisons. Moreover, there is a misplaced assumption that the seemingly lower levels of violence [among older prisoners] mean improved compliance.
Mr Selous accepted that more research was required and appreciated the need for the MoJ carefully to study the mixing of age cohorts on the potential positive and negative impact of older adults on their younger counterparts.
122.In her research Dr Gooch from Birmingham University had found almost no therapeutic support or counselling opportunities in prison, the provision of which is predominantly the responsibility of the NHS, despite the level of trauma, loss and bereavement typically experienced by young adults and its potential to address the root causes of a young adult’s criminality and self-harming behaviour. When we discussed this with Mr Selous he referred to support provided by chaplains. The nature of therapeutic support in prison was also one of the subjects we discussed with bereaved families and young adults who had recently been involved themselves in the criminal justice system; its lack of availability was a common theme. For example, we heard that at HMP Portland there was no counsellor for over 500 men. Trauma-informed approaches were advocated to enable young adults to develop better coping mechanisms and an understanding of how to build healthy relationships. Mr Spurr could see the resonance of trauma-informed approaches for young adults and planned to extend the training that had been provided across female establishments to other parts of the prison estate.
123.We have found limited evidence of innovative practice with young adults in prisons, even in the young adult prison estate for 18 to 21 year olds. Provision to address the needs of young adult offenders with mental disorders, neuro-disabilities, well-being needs stemming from trauma, and other learning and communication difficulties is particularly poor. We are not currently convinced that developmentally appropriate responses will flourish within the existing arrangements for managing young adults in custodial institutions without a step change in direction from the centre. The over-riding emphasis on safety may be necessary in the short-term but it cripples the system from engaging more effectively. The possibility of taking distinct approaches to young adults through specialist training and developmentally appropriate interventions is limited if they are integrated with older adults.
124.We heard of a number of potential means of better managing young adults to reduce violence and create greater stability within custodial establishments holding them. Dr Gooch asserted that this required strong leadership, strong staff-prisoner relationships and a whole-prison approach to violence reduction, which included support of both victims and perpetrators. She explained what in her view stronger “operational grip” by governors entailed:
It is the decisions that are made about how you use segregation and how you use adjudications, which are the disciplinary hearings within the prison. It is the values that you instil about where the boundaries are and what is appropriate behaviour. When you talk about grip, it is not about punitiveness. It is understanding when to lock down and when to use your security measures to their full potential, if need be—for example, to search a wing or to keep everyone safe by reducing activity for a particular day—as well as about knowing when to leave it.
For example, incentives and privileges schemes would emphasise quicker sanctions, quicker rewards for small changes in behaviour and clear progression. Adjudications would be used to challenge and talk about behaviour, as well as to promote more positive forms of behaviour.
125.The Restorative Justice Council, Nick Pascoe and Catch 22 highlighted the value of whole prison approaches to restorative justice, which had been used successfully in youth justice settings. Mat Ilic explained that this would entail dialogue between prison staff and young people about why they are acting in a particular way to seek to get underneath the behaviours they display. We heard from Mr Selous that smaller units can foster more positive prisoner-staff relationships and lower levels of violence; he had been impressed by the enabling environment wing at HMYOI Aylesbury and wished to see this extended. The Royal College of Psychiatrists strongly supported such initiatives and wished to see those currently available have higher levels of input, including more comprehensive services.
126.We heard from Catch 22 and St Giles Trust about the effective work they are doing to tackle gangs which includes taking a ‘whole family’ approach. St Giles Trust believed that prisons could also learn from community based initiatives in gang mediation. Another of Catch22’s programmes, HMP Thameside Gangs Service, seeks to capitalise on the ‘teachable moments’ prompted by prison sentences to encourage people to leave gang lifestyles behind by building coping and communication skills, and identifying positive educational and employment opportunities for people to pursue on release. Mat Ilic of Catch 22 attributed the programme to a 77% reduction in violent incidents at HMP Thameside since it was introduced.
127.As we noted in chapter 2 some witnesses linked the lack of purposeful activity with boredom and poor behaviour and T2A, HMIP, Nacro and Prisoners Education Trust wished to see provision and access to it improved significantly. The former Prisons Minister told us he was proud of the Ministry’s efforts to improve education, employment and mental health support, and wished to see young adults getting out of their cells and accessing them. One of Lord Harris’s recommendations that was rejected by the Ministry of Justice was that prisons should record the amount of time the prisoners spent outside their cell, particularly time spent engaged in purposeful activity, to incentivise greater provision.
128.While high levels of violence and bullying have been enduring problems in institutions holding young adults and have become endemic in their culture, this is not inevitable. The incentives and earned privileges scheme and punitive and restrictive measures to prevent violence, including shockingly long hours of being restricted to cells and high levels of adjudications are short-term means of managing a risky and vulnerable population. Such action does little to address underlying behaviour and is largely ineffective as a means of deterrence. Measures which focus on positive encouragement and which seek to understand the reasons underlying their conduct will be more successful in achieving changes in behaviour.
129.Prison population levels and resources for staffing are now such that the population cannot safely be managed without confining young adult prisoners for significant periods of the day. There is little worth in improving education, employment and mental health support if they cannot be accessed. This renders one of the purposes of imprisonment—to rehabilitate—wholly redundant. Of course it is imperative that safety is the priority within prisons, but society also expects that prisoners will be released having a greater chance of living law abiding lives, and the extent to which prisons are promoting the purpose of public safety, other than for the often short duration of a prison sentence, is also minimised by this policy. The strain under which the prison system is operating means that it cannot be effective at rehabilitating young adults whose brains are still developing and for whom it is especially important.
130.T2A believed that in order to develop a distinct approach the Ministry of Justice should create and implement a strategy for 18 to 25 year olds, including the creation of a range of accountability measures with a Minister in the Ministry of Justice, with cross-departmental responsibilities in the Home Office, exercising oversight. This was supported by several witnesses.
131.Lord Harris recommended that a senior individual, supported by a dedicated unit within NOMS, be given responsibility for ensuring the particular needs of all young adults are provided for appropriately across the prison estate, believing that the young adults portfolio of the Deputy Director was subsidiary to a wider role managing the under 18 estate. He also called for a cohesive and effective strategy on young adults which he defined as 18 to 24 year olds. The Government did not agree that one individual could adopt operational responsibility for the management of over 20% of the total prison population, not addressing Lord Harris’s suggestion for the person in that role to be supported by a team. When we asked the then Deputy Director of Custody, Mr Nick Pascoe, whether he should have responsibility for a slightly older young adult cohort, up to 25 years old, he explained:
There is a policy issue, and there is an operational responsibility issue. The 18-to-25 group is about 16,000 prisoners. I do not think they can be managed operationally as a separate group. What policy would be necessary for that distinct group is less clear.
132.Assessment, guidance on effective practice, and training only goes so far in encouraging practitioners to treat young adults more developmentally appropriately. T2A advocated that as part of its recommended strategy young adulthood should be defined in statute as those aged 18 to 25 and proposed that the government should bring forward an amendment to the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 to create a legal duty for probation services to provide a distinct service for young adults, similar to section 10 of the Act and its requirement to provide a distinct service specifically meeting the needs of female offenders. Lord Harris called in his Review for the concept of maturity of young adults to be enshrined in legislation in addition to recognition of age. He explained to us what he envisaged:
… the principle that the law simply recognises chronological age and does not recognise that some 18-year-olds have the maturity, strength and capacity of 25-year-olds have the maturity of a 16-year-old rather misses the point. [The Government] say of course that judges should have discretion, and I support th[at] principle … but I am sure it helps [them] if they have a piece of statute that says, “This is something that we should be taking into account”.
T2A also suggested that the Ministry of Justice should develop performance measures to incentivise distinct approaches to be adopted for young adults.
133.The provision of community-based rehabilitative services for young adults is included under the generic contracting arrangements with CRCs for all offenders under probation supervision and in the last three months of their imprisonment. T2A believed that all CRCs should develop distinct young adult teams, which would have smaller caseloads and work in collaboration with the voluntary sector to deliver a ‘gold standard’ approach as defined by T2A and Clinks in their report ‘Going for Gold’. T2A proposed that post-prison resettlement services should be contracted separately from older adult services, ensuring that all young adults leaving prison are provided with a distinct, more intensive, age-appropriate range of support and supervision.
134.Many Probation Trusts established dedicated young adults services and teams. This trend has continued under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, where T2A has identified that the majority of Community Rehabilitation Companies have identified young adults aged 18 to 25 as a priority and/or distinct group. They have differed in their approaches to this. London CRC has opted to treat young adults as a separate cohort and provide an enhanced level of service and explained:
The rationale for this decision extends beyond just the maturity agenda; the CRC considers that in addition, young adults should receive separate employment/ training advice and this should include age and maturation appropriate teaching methods that young adults can readily learn from. Furthermore, young adults should receive different specialist mental health inputs given mental health conditions for young adults are different to those experienced by older people and they should also access different services to address issues relating to violence.
For example, London CRC’s New Directions programme has resulted in a 5 to 10% reduction in reconvictions and is particularly effective when a young adult has supportive family or other social networks.
135.Durham Tees Valley CRC (DTV CRC) has adopted an approach in which they support all individuals dependent on their needs based on desistance theories and an understanding of maturity. For example, in order to ensure that young adults understand the responsibilities that are placed upon them they make the induction process as clear and transparent as possible and where appropriate explain the terms of their community order or licence to parents or guardians. They also facilitate a variety of contact methods such as text or email for any queries to be clarified by their probation officer. Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland CRC (DNLR CRC) has introduced a multi-agency, pan-region Young Adult Project (YAP!) to offer distinct provision at multiple stages of the criminal justice system. Similar initiatives are taking place in Wales, Gloucestershire and Hampshire. The experience of Greater Manchester Intensive Alternative to Custody and similar programmes has demonstrated that more intensive interventions which provide structure can, counter-intuitively, be more successful.
136.Witnesses from CRCs did not see a need to change existing arrangements, including through a legal duty for them to provide a distinct service for young adults. Mr Hillas believed CRCs would be “foolish … not to offer a distinct service” given the evidence. They agreed that there was sufficient scope within the flexibility of rehabilitation activity requirements to suit individual needs and tailor supervision. For example, DNLR CRC has designed rehabilitation activity requirement specifically for young adults and Grace Strong of DNLR CRC believed that more imaginative use could be made of senior attendance centres, including involving young adults in the delivery of the sentence. Our evidence from probation services suggests that there is sufficient flexibility within the adult community sentencing framework to facilitate a distinct approach to young adults in the community without legislative change. Developmentally appropriate responses are feasible within this framework—including through conditional cautions and rehabilitation requirements, attendance centres and intensive schemes—and appear to have flourished under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms in some CRC areas although there are inconsistencies. This is dependent on CRCs recognising the benefits of developmentally appropriate responses, either collectively or on an individual basis following assessments of maturity, and on sentencers choosing to use them. Police and Crime Commissioners are well-positioned strategically to champion and co-ordinate more effective approaches, including diversionary approaches, and have been able to leverage multi-agency resources, including funding for victims’ services and partnerships with local authorities and health services.
137.In exploring the options for change detailed above with our witnesses we have been mindful that policy change could be costly yet has the potential to be beneficial in reducing the challenges of managing effectively young adults and improving their outcomes. For example, acknowledging that enhancing the screening and strategies for managing young adults developmentally appropriately would require additional resources, the British Psychological Society suggested that this would amount to an “investing to save” strategy. Lord McNally supported this, explaining that in the experience of the YJB multi-agency co-operation has resulted in more effective use of resources. Max Rutherford expressed disappointment that the Ministry of Justice had not recognised that it is worth focusing attention and resources on the age cohort that makes the biggest demand on its services. He illustrated how long-term savings might be accrued with the following example:
[A borough commander] said that, for him, the reason why 18 to 25 year olds should be a distinct group and have a special effort of resources and capacity was that, if we get it wrong with that age group, there is at least a decade-long consequence, socially and financially. This is the group with the peak age of offending but also the age group more likely permanently to desist from crime, if we get it right.
Professor Williams similarly considered that the level of reoffending and risk of suicidality and self-harm is so significant in cases of neuro-disability and adversity that it is “very likely” that interventions to address those things will have a beneficial long-term impact. The Centre for Mental Health has estimated that the long-term costs per case of a 15-year-old with traumatic brain injury who comes into contact with the criminal justice system is around £345,000.
138.There is some evidence that treating young adults differently would result in cost-savings. For example, Beyond Youth Custody cites several case studies of young adults who had recently been in custody who received intensive support related to mental health, substance misuse and other issues post-release. The costs of non-intervention (reactive costs) were compared with the costs of intervention (pro-active costs) and in each case, even when costs of intervention were high, there was a net benefit within a few months to a year. Economic analysis carried out for T2A by Matrix Evidence has shown that introducing measures that would allow young adults to be tried under juvenile law following a maturity assessment is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of almost £5 million (£420 per offender).
139. Young adults offend the most but have the most potential to stop offending. They are resource intensive as they are challenging to manage. A strong case could be made for recognising that expenditure to make the system more developmentally responsive would pay dividends in reduced costs to the system in reducing incidents of violence and to society in reducing offending and the creation of further victims. The Ministry of Justice has not clearly articulated to us why it has not acted decisively to develop a systematic new approach to young adults, given the weight of evidence. The lack of action denotes an absence of leadership, both Departmentally and within NOMS, and tinkering around the edges misses clear opportunities to seek to prevent the cycle of offending continuing, creating more victims in the process.
190 Dr Nathan Hughes (); The Magistrates’ Association (); Cornwall & Isles Of Scilly Youth Offending Service (); Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); British Psychological Society ()
191 Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Youth Offending Service (). [Ms Harrison], [Ms Doughty]
193 Ministry of Justice July 2015; Youth Justice Board, July 2015
194 Oral evidence: Prison reform, ,
195 [Lord McNally]; [Ms Hinnigan]
196 Youth Justice Board ()
197 [Mr Ripley]
198 [Mr Richardson; Mr Caplan]
199 Youth Justice Board (); Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); Addaction (); Prisoners’ Education Trust ()
200 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); St Giles Trust ()
201 See for example [Lord Harris of Haringey]; Q166 [Ms Hinnigan]; Youth Justice Board (); Centre For Justice Innovation ()
202 [Ms Strong]; [Professor Williams]
203 [Dr Hughes]; Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); Dr Nathan Hughes (); Royal College of Psychiatrists (); Durham Tees Valley CRC ()
205 [Professor Williams]
206 [Professor Williams]
208 Dr Delmage; Royal College of Psychiatrists (); British Psychological Society ()
209 Catch 22], Prison Advice And Care Trust (), Drs Gooch and Treadwell, [Mr Ilic]
210 Maslaha (); [Baroness Young of Hornsey]
211 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance()
212 [Dr Gooch]
213 British Psychological Society (); Dr Nathan Hughes ()
214 Ministry of Justice (); [Mr Allars]
216 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance()
218 Professor Williams ()
220 [Mr Selous]
221 [Professor Williams]; Dr Nathan Hughes ()
223 [Baroness Young]; Professor Sir Anthony Bottoms ()
224 St Giles Trust (); [Mr Hillas]; Catch22 ()
226 [Baroness Young]; See also [Dr Gooch]
227 [Dr Hughes]; [Ms Strong]
228 ; See also
230 [Mr Ilic]
231 [Mr Kastner]
234 [Professor Williams]; Catch22 (); Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance()
236 [Mr Rutherford]; [Professor Williams]; UKABIF (); Royal College of Psychiatrists ()
238 [Professor Williams]
239 [Baroness Young]
242 Oral evidence: Prison safety, , ;
243 [Ms Strong]; [Lord Harris of Haringey]; St Giles Trust ()
244 St Giles Trust ()
246 Centre For Justice Innovation ()
249 [Mr Estep]; [Ms Abbott JP]
250 [Ms Strong]
251 [ Caplan], [Ms Strong]; The Magistrates’ Association (); See also [Ms Abbott]
252 [Ms Mullins]; [Mr Ilic]
253 [Ms Hinnigan]
255 [Mr Caplan] [Mr Richardson].
256 [Ms Abbott JP]
257 [Mr Rutherford]
258 [Dr Gooch]; [Mr Ilic]
259 The Howard League for Penal Reform ()
260 [Dr Delmage]; [Dr Chitsabesan]
261 Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime ()
262 [Mr Greenhalgh]
264 ; See also Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime ()
265 [Mr Ripley]
266 [Mr Hillas]
267 [Mr Kastner]
268 [Mr Kastner]. See also St Giles Trust ()
269 [Mr Rutherford]; Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); Criminal Justice Alliance (); Prison Reform Trust (); NACRO (); Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (); Royal College of Psychiatrists ()
275 [Lord Harris]
276 [Lord Harris]; HM Inspectorate Of Prisons (). See also Catch22 ()
278 HM Inspectorate Of Prisons (); Q70 [Lord Harris]
279 , p10
281 [Mr Pascoe]
284 HM Inspectorate Of Prisons ()
285 Catch22 ()
286 University of Birmingham ()
288 ; See also A constituent of Robert Buckland MP ()
289 Published 21 January 2016; See also Justice Committee Oral evidence: , HC 625, 1 December 2015, Qq13-15
290 [Ms Mullins]
294 Restorative Justice Council (); Catch22 (); [Mr Pascoe]
297 Royal College of Psychiatrists ()
298 St Giles Trust (); Catch22 ()
299 St Giles Trust ()
300 [Mr Ilic]. The programme also resulted in a 49% reduction in service users reporting gang affiliation, 67% reduction in offences and 54% reduction in individuals not in school, training or employment. Catch22 ()
301 [Mr Selous]
302 [Ms Harrison; Ms Doughty; Mr Allars]
303 Ministry of Justice, , December 2015
305 [Mr Rutherford]
306 [Lord Harris]
307 Clinks ()
308 [Mr Hillas]
309 [Mr Ripley]
310 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance(); See also Working Links ()
311 [Mr Hillas]
313 [Ms Strong]
314 [Ms Hinnigan];
319 Parsonage, M., , July 2016, London: Centre for Mental Health
320 Beyond Youth Custody, ; 2016
321 Barrow Cadbury Trust / Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance()
24 October 2016