New Prison Reform Trust briefing on young adults in the criminal justice system

A new report by the Prison Reform Trust has called for a more effective approach for young adult in the criminal justice system, drawing on research by the T2A Alliance.


The press release is below (from:



Locking up impressionable young men and women in adult jails with nothing to do risks creating a disaffected generation more likely to turn to crime, according to a new report by the Prison Reform Trust.


Three quarters of those convicted of riot offences are under 25. Eighteen to twenty-five year-olds make up one in ten of the population as a whole, but they account for a third of those sent to prison each year and a third of the total social and economic cost of crime. Nearly two thirds of young people released from custody in the first quarter of 2008 reoffended within a year.


Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick has raised concerns about young adults in prison, describing “young men sleeping through their sentences” in HMYOI Rochester and a lack of engagement in work, education and training across the young offender estate.


As part of its five year Out of Trouble programme supported by The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, the Prison Reform Trust’s today launches a report highlighting the reforms needed to reduce reoffending by young adults and their numbers in prison. The report calls on Ministers to build on their recent decision to reprieve the Youth Justice Board (YJB) by extending the same multi-agency approach to young adults as well as children. Currently the criminal justice system has a number of specific provisions for children and young people under 18 who get in trouble with the law, but older teenagers (18-20 year olds) are dealt with the same as mature adults.


Following an impressive drop in offending by children and a reduction in child imprisonment government must turn its attention to a neglected group of older teenagers who need considerable help to get out of trouble. The report highlights the effectiveness of a new Intensive Community Order piloted by Greater Manchester Probation Trust, which is proving successful in helping young adult offenders to break out of the vicious cycle of offending and imprisonment. A similar scheme has been trialled in West Yorkshire.


The cross-bench peer Lord Adobawale has tabled an amendment to the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, to create an intensive community order for young adults based on the pilots. In addition, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons Lord Ramsbotham has tabled an amendment to the bill to make youth referral orders, which achieve the lowest reoffending rates of all juvenile court imposed sentence, available to young people aged 18 – 20.


Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:


“We should be steering our young men and women into colleges of education and learning not colleges of crime. Locking up impressionable 18 and 19 year olds in adult jails with nothing to do is the surest way to create the hardened criminals of tomorrow. For many young people, intensive community approaches that nip offending behaviour in the bud are more effective than a prison sentence in helping them take responsibility and grow out of trouble.”



Director of the Out of Trouble campaign, Penelope Gibbs, called on Peers to back the reforms needed:


“Manchester Probation Trust’s innovative pilot scheme shows what can be achieved when young offenders are helped to turn their lives around. Ministers should ensure that other probation services follow where Manchester and West Yorkshire have led. Amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill should give courts the power to sentence young adult offenders to an Intensive Community Order.”



Click here to download a copy of the report.