More should be done to tackle re-offending rates among those aged 18 to 25.
That’s the verdict of a committee of MPs, who identified the age group as having the greatest potential to mend their ways.
The Commons Justice Committee reported that there was a strong case for treating young adult offenders differently because their brains are still developing.
The report also says that “temperance – the ability to evaluate the consequences of actions and to limit impulsiveness and risk-taking” is still developing when a person is in their 20s.
The number of young adults in the criminal justice system has fallen in recent years, but figures suggest 18 to 25-year-olds still account for up to 40% of the criminal caseload. They also have the highest reconviction rate, with 75% returning to crime within two years of being released.
But the report argued that they also had the greatest potential to stop offending as they “grow out of crime”.
Government figures also reveal that offenders aged between 18 and 25 are 10 times more likely to have a learning disability or autistic disorder.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said significant efforts had been made to divert young people from custody, resulting in a reduction in the prison population – down 40% since 2010.
But Alex Hewson, of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “A justice system which throws young people off a cliff edge on their 18th birthday, and expects them to fend for themselves in the adult system when they are still maturing and often vulnerable, is not one that is set up to deliver for offenders, victims or local communities.”
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