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Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice Systems

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2015
12 pages
After reviewing recent research on brain development and associated behaviors in young adults (ages 18-24), this issue-brief recommends ways to improve outcomes for young adults in the juvenile or criminal justice systems.
In Part I, the brief discusses how young adults are developmentally different from youth and older adults. Contrary to conventional belief and policy, age 18 is not a fixed point when all adolescents become fully mature adults. Research has shown that from age 18 to 24, and even beyond, significant brain development is still occurring, and decisionmaking abilities are not fully formed. This developmental period can be clearly distinguished from both youth and older adults. They are distinguishable from youth in being more cognitively developed, more vulnerable to peer pressure and other external influences, are more likely to engage in risky behavior, and they are pursuing autonomy from families/caregivers. Compared to older adults, young adults are more impulsive, less able to control emotions, and less likely to consider future consequences of their actions. Part II of the brief focuses on opportunities and challenges in meeting young adults' needs. Challenges are discussed in the areas of education, employment, mental health and substance abuse, and transition to independence. Part III contains recommendations for meeting the needs of young adults involved in the justice system. One recommendation is to tailor supervision and services to address young adults' distinctive needs. A second recommendation is to reduce barriers across service systems so as to better meet the distinctive needs of young adults. A third recommendation is to improve data collection and reporting on young adult recidivism and other outcomes. A fourth recommendation is to build the knowledge base on "what works" in addressing the distinctive needs of young adults. 46 notes

Date Published: November 1, 2015