Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults

New Thinking in Community Corrections

September 8, 2015
Authors: Vincent Schiraldi, Bruce Western, and Kendra Bradner

The Executive Session on Community Corrections unveiled the inaugural paper from the new series, New Thinking in Community Corrections, entitled Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults.

  • “This paper raises important questions about the criminal justice system’s response to young adults. Recent advances in behavior and neuroscience research confirm that brain development continues well into a person’s 20s, meaning that young adults have more psychosocial similarities to children than to older adults. This developmental distinction should help inform the justice system’s response to criminal behavior among this age group.” -Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice

In this new report by Executive Session members Vincent Schiraldi, Bruce Western, and Kendra Bradner, the authors note that the human brain has been clinically shown to not fully mature prior to the mid-20s and suggest new institutional methods and processes for young adult justice that can meet the realities of life for today's disadvantaged youth involved in crime and the criminal justice system.

They envision a system that extends the reach of the juvenile court to reflect a modern understanding of the transition into adulthood, and their primary recommendation is that the age of juvenile court jurisdiction be raised to 21, with additional, gradually diminishing protections for young adults up to age 24 or 25.

Vincent Schiraldi served as senior advisor to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in New York City; Bruce Western is Faculty Chair of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School; and Kendra Bradner is Project Coordinator of the Executive Session on Community Corrections at Harvard Kennedy School.

The Executive Session on Community Corrections is a project of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), the Malcolm Wiener Center, and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

 

Findings and conclusions in these publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.

Vincent Schiraldi, Kendra Bradner, and Bruce Western

Prison is becoming home for a increasing number of young adults, most of whom find themselves caught in a revolving door that leads them back behind bars multiple times. Nearly 130,000 young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 were admitted to state or federal prison in 2012. Another 97,500 were released back into their communities, but roughly 78 percent of them will be rearrested within three years.

Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults (cover)