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Lost in Transition: A Report of the Barrow Cadbury Commission on Young Adults and the Criminal Justice System

16th November 2005

The independent Commission on Young Adults and the Criminal Justice System was established by the Barrow Cadbury Trust. The role of the Commission was to develop a way in which the criminal justice system can recognise the importance of the transition between adolescence and adulthood, to develop ideas about how the system can promote natural desistance from offending in young adults in transition, and to find a way in which the criminal justice system could better promote the life chances of young adults.The Commission began its work in summer 2004. A wide range of stakeholders were invited to submit written evidence or were consulted through one-to-one or roundtable discussions about the issues facing young adults in transition and what the solutions could be. A list of organisations consulted is appended to the report. Commissioners also made a number of study visits to projects aimed at helping young adults in transition, in the UK, in Europe and in North America. The recommendations contained in the report have been informed by the consultations and the visits.
A number of partner organisations undertook a range of projects for the Commission to help develop the recommendations and the report:
The Prison Reform Trust and Jane Gordon
MEL Regeneration
The Social Market Foundation
Crime Concern
Dr Colin Webster , Dr Rob MacDonald, Tracey Shildrick and Mark Simpson of Teesside University
The Office for Public Management (OPM)
Professor Roger Bowles and Rimawan Pradiptyo of the Centre for Criminal Justice, Economics and Psychology, University of York

Why a Commission?

Young adults aged 18-21 are at the peak age for offending yet, with Government strategy primarily focusing on those young people aged under 18, there are few programmes and services aimed specifically at those over 18.

This despite the fact that:

  • the peak age of offending for males is 18
  • 18-20 year olds constitute 42% of all first time offenders
  • 74% of male offenders between 18-21 reoffend within two years
  • black and minority ethnic young adults are over-represented at all stages of the criminal justice system
  • young adult crime costs up to £20 billion a year

Whilst success has been claimed for the Government's youth justice reforms, the prevention agenda around young people and offending has clearly neglected those aged 18-21 because they are classified as adults. Furthermore, following changes in the law, young adults are increasingly being held in adult prisons, rather than Young Offender Institutions, and their needs are not being met. Overall there would appear to be a significant gap in mainstream provision for this age group.

The Commission looked at what could be achieved by way of different approaches to this age group in the future, with regard to prevention of crime, support to individuals and developing greater community trust in the justice system. This meant going beyond current policy, looking for innovation and good practice and making some analytical judgements on the current practices and policy in relation to this issue.

The work of the Commission

The Commission has been Chaired by Greg Parston, co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Office for Public Management, who a long history of working to address issues of social inequality and has a particular interest in the issue of young adults at risk.

The Chairman has been supported by twelve Commissioners representing a broad mix of interest and perspectives.

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