‘Abolish short sentences for non-violent young offenders’

Short sentences, of less than six months, should be abolished for 18 to 24-year-old non-violent offenders according to a manifesto from charities and academics, launched today.

The Young Adult Manifesto: the need for a distinct and radically different approach to young adults in the criminal justice system, is being launched by the Transition 2 Adulthood (T2A) Alliance, a coalition of charities, research centres and think-tanks set up by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Shan Nicholas, deputy chair of the T2A Alliance, said the current system is failing young adults, many of whom enter prison with complex needs including mental health problems and substance misuse, and leave with little offer of support.

According to the T2A Alliance, 18-24 years olds make up 9.5% of the UK population, yet commit one-third of all crime. Over half of young adults sentenced to custody reoffend within one year of release.

The report has also recommended that the criminal justice system recognise young adults of 18-to-24 years old as a distinct group, and that money saved from abolishing short sentences should be reinvested into community sentences, which address the specific needs of young adults and the causes of their offending.

All young offender institutions should also be actively twinned with a local further education college so that education, work or training can continue on release.

Nicholas said: “Experience shows that where community groups work closely with these offenders near the end of their sentences, and continue to provide intensive support once they are released, young adults are more likely to engage productively in educational and rehabilitative programmes, meet the conditions of their probation and stay away from negative influences in their lives.

“[This] is the best solution for them, for communities affected by criminal behaviour, for an overburdened prison system and ultimately for taxpayers who pick up the bill,” she said.

A recent study by the University of York found that the cost of young adult crime totals an estimated £20bn per year. In 2005, the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s commission on young adults and the criminal justice system launched its report, Lost in Transition, which highlighted the complex needs of 18-to-24 year olds. Following the report, the Barrow Cadbury Trust convened the Transition to Adulthood Alliance to make real progress in this area.

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