18 May 2023

New approach to young adult diversion in US

Young adults
A young white man with blond hair looks out of a window

Young adults, aged 18-25, represent 10% of the UK population, but over 30% of all police cases[1].

One of the reasons behind this huge disparity is because there is a “cliff edge” in support when young adults turn 18 years of age and state support evaporates. Furthermore, emotional maturity and life experiences are not always sufficiently considered when young adults come into contact with the justice system.

Our T2A Alliance Partners, Revolving Doors, published an evidence review in 2021 which explored how tailored diversion schemes can increase maturity and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The review pulled together the “key elements of support that can be provided as part of an out of court disposal that can turn young adults’ lives around”.

New approaches to diversion are being developed across the world, and last month we warmly welcomed a new report from the Emerging Adult Justice Project (EAJP) in the US. It set out 13 promising practices for the design and implementation of young adult diversion schemes.

Report authors, Noor Toraif and Lael Chester, believe that diversion should be the default approach for young adults and that cases where diversion is not pursued should be transparently reviewed on a regular basis. Lael Chester explains:

“Pre-arraignment diversion should be the default in every jurisdiction, and it should be tailored to the developmental stage. Most youth will desist from criminal behavior as they mature, and successful diversion can both support and accelerate this process. It’s a small investment for a big outcome that benefits us all.”

It’s incredibly positive to see organisations across the world affirming the fact that young adults are a distinct group with distinct needs. When we work together with young adults and listen to their experiences, we can get things right.

New Generation Campaigner Natasha expresses this better than we ever could:

“What made the biggest difference for me was having a consistent support worker who worked with me at every step of my journey, taught me how to notice patterns, followed up after I left the service, and encouraged me to seek help. I liked how they did not judge me or make me feel less than. This made me see the light at the end of the tunnel and push me to make the positive changes and embark on my journey to change.” (Foreword, Evidence review: diverting young adults away from the cycle of crisis and crime)

[1] Revolving Doors analysis based on Ministry of Justice. 2019, Criminal Justice System Statistics publication: Outcomes by Offence 2008 to 2018: Pivot Table Analytical Tool for England and Wales