“Environmental Scan of Developmentally Appropriate Criminal Justice Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults” Report from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Now Available.

Abstract included below. For the full report, click here.

“This environmental scan sought to identify those programs addressing the developmental needs of young adults involved in the criminal justice system. Included in the scan is legislation with provisions sensitive to the developmental level and maturation of justice-involved young adults.
The scan incorporated a variety of methods to locate programs and legislation. The approaches included a review of research and documents prepared by advocacy organizations; extensive internet searches; interviews of various stakeholders; outreach to professional organizations; searches on social media sites; and distribution (via professional listservs) of an invitation from the Assistant Attorney General to submit information on successful programs.
All established programs included in the scan identified some level of success, although often this was established anecdotally. Achievement of success generally focused on the reduction of recidivism rates. A common theme in all programs is the inclusion of case management or coordination, combined with intensive services. Individualized services included education or vocational training, mental and/or substance abuse treatment, and assistance with housing and employment. Many programs offer reduced sentencing or probation, expungement of records, or a reduction in charges as an incentive for participation. Programs ranged from those still in the developmental stages to several that have provided services and supports to justice-involved young adults for several years.
Among the more innovative approaches is a network of programs in the state of Massachusetts, the most widely known being Roca and UTEC. These programs include repeatedly reaching out to young offenders in efforts to engage them in services rather than requiring voluntary participation at the onset of services. Another innovation is a recently added “pay for success” structure in which the agency providing services is compensated based on achievement of predefined outcomes. UTEC developed several social enterprises (e.g., a mattress recycling service, food services, woodworking) to create employment opportunities for participants. A new program in New York is using mobile technology to track and maintain contact with young adults awaiting trial. A program in Maine operates a separate incarceration facility for young adults with an emphasis on treatment and skill development rather than the typical punitive approach used in adult prisons.
Legislative changes in the approach to how young adults are handled within the justice system have centered around three main themes. This includes raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, consideration of mitigating circumstances in sentencing, and the expungement of criminal records of young adults. Connecticut has garnered much attention for the governor’s proposal to raise the age at which a person can be tried as an adult to 21 years. Several states have proposed legislation that would allow judges to take into account the age at which a crime is committed as a mitigating factor in sentencing, allowing for lesser sentences based on the maturation level of young adults. Several states have considered laws to expunge the criminal records of young adults, reducing the long-term consequences of actions of young adults who may lack the judgment and critical thinking skills of older adults”

U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs 810 Seventh St. N.W. Washington, DC 20531
Loretta E. Lynch Attorney General
Karol V. Mason Assistant Attorney General
Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D. Director, National Institute of Justice
This and other publications and products of the National Institute of Justice can be found at:
National Institute of Justice Strengthen Science •  Advance Justice http://www.nij.gov
Office of Justice Programs Innovation • Partnerships • Safer Neighborhoods http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov
The National Institute of Justice is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. NIJ’s mission is to advance scientific research, development and evaluation to enhance the administration of justice and public safety.
The National Institute of Justice is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking.