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PCC Spotlight 1: Young Adults (18-24) in contact with police and criminal Justice services

Author: Shane Britton

Young adults (18-24) are the most likely age group to come into contact with the police, both as victims and as offenders. Nationally, they represent just 10% of the population, but account for around:

  • one-third of those commencing a community sentence
  • one-third of the probation service’s caseload
  • one-third of those sentenced to prison.

Young adults are the most likely age group ‘grow out of crime’ and desist when the right interventions are in place. However, too often they face a system that fails to take account of their varying levels of maturity and their often complex needs. They fall through gaps in support services as they transition between youth and adult systems, while criminal justice interventions aimed at adults often fail to prevent further offending - around three-quarters of young adults leaving prison are reconvicted within two years.

Despite these challenges, there is growing evidence of the kind of interventions that can work for this group. The Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A) have highlighted key recommendations at each stage of the criminal justice pathway, while the T2A pilots worked intensively with young adults in three locations to deliver a dramatic reduction in reconviction and breach rates across the cohort.ii Furthermore, many of the principles successful in the youth justice system for under-18s could also be extended to this age group.

Local leadership is crucial in embedding a more effective approach. Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in particular have a key role to play, cutting across youth and adults systems with an interest in reducing the demand that this age group place on the police.

Our recent briefing Improving responses to young adults: a ‘checklist’ for police and crime commissioners highlights a number of key recommendations for PCCs to consider in improving responses for this age group. Building on this, this ‘PCC spotlight’ focuses on promising practice, highlighting areas where PCCs are taking a lead on this issue and offering examples that could help inform others looking to develop a more effective approach for young adults.