Appropriate Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults

Environmental Scan of Developmentally Appropriate Criminal Justice Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults
National Institute of Justice
Connie Hayek

Young adults comprise a disproportionately high percentage of arrests and prison admissions, and about half of all young adults return to prison within three years following release. Recent research confirms that brain development continues well into a person’s 20s. Thus, the young adults being arrested and sentenced in the adult criminal justice system have more psychosocial similarities to youth than to older adults.

Having a justice system that appropriately responds to criminal behavior and helps young adults rebuild their lives has the potential to reduce future criminal activity — and consequently the number of future victims.

To help jumpstart and inform the conversation about programs and legislation targeting the unique developmental needs of justice-involved young adults, NIJ produced an environmental scan that scan identified 51 programs and strategies, including young-adult courts, probation and parole programs, community-based programs, and prison-based strategies.