T2A comment on Ministry of Justice response to Justice Select Committee Inquiry on young adults

Last October, the Justice Select Committee published what T2A called ‘a landmark and visionary report’ on the management of young adults in the criminal justice system. T2A is encouraged by today’s government response to that inquiry, which demonstrates that the Ministry of Justice is moving in the right direction.

T2A agrees with the government’s overarching view that young adults ‘must remain a priority group for criminal justice agencies – partly because of their prominence in terms of numbers, but also because we have an opportunity to steer them in a different direction, helping them to tackle the factors that increase the risk of offending so that they may have fulfilled lives and make a positive contribution to society’. An ongoing commitment to young adults will be required to ensure that the government’s good intensions set out in its response are realised.

There has been progress made in policy and practice towards recognising young adults aged 18-25 as a distinct group at all stages of the criminal justice system, including the significant decline in young adults in prison (a fall of 42% between 2007 and 2015). We agree with the government that it is essential that this progress is built upon by encouraging efforts to stem the flow before young adults arrive at a prison sentence.

The government did not accept the Committee’s recommendation for the Ministry of Justice to produce a specific young adult strategy. T2A will continue to advocate for this and believes that the most effective way to address the needs of young adults and improve their outcomes is through a dedicated, distinct approach at all stages of the criminal justice system. However, a diverse portfolio of young adult specific work is presented in the response, demonstrating that much is already underway within Ministry of Justice and NOMS.

T2A will be pleased to support these activities, and seek to ensure that they result in positive change. These include the implementation of a new maturity screening tool for use in prisons and the community to help commissioners target resources and interventions that are most effective for young adults, and a review by the National Probation Service of what works best for young adults. It will be important that the Ministry of Justice draws these strands of work together, and to ensure that young adults are considered within other programmes of work such as reform prisons and the forthcoming employment strategy.

The Ministry of Justice was widely criticised for its proposals in 2013 to scrap the sentence of Detention in a Young Offender Institution (DYOI) – the only young adult specific legislative protection for 18-20 year olds in prison. T2A remains firmly in opposition to this proposal. We note that the decision to implement this proposal has been further delayed to enable a more detailed analysis of evidence on the most appropriate and effective management of young adults in custody. T2A will be keen to contribute to this process.

T2A welcomes the government’s interest in the T2A young adult court feasibility programme, which is due to complete shortly after a year working with 5 sites in England and Wales in partnership with the Centre for Justice Innovation. We hope to work with the Ministry of Justice and relevant agencies at a national and local level to test how reoffending and compliance outcomes for young adults can be improved through a more targeted court process.

It is encouraging that the case has been made of the benefits of brain injury rehabilitation for young prisoners, an area that T2A has been involved in for some time. It is good that specific attention is given in the response to young adult care leavers and BAME young adults – two groups of young adults who are significantly over-represented in the criminal justice system, and on whom T2A is currently focusing within its programme – and we will continue to work with partners to ensure that they remain high up on the agenda.

T2A will continue to work with government, criminal justice agencies and young adults themselves to make the Committee’s vision and the government’s commitments a reality.