T2A Chair Leroy Logan welcomes the government’s recognition that steps must be taken to use prison better and that short prison sentences are counter-productive. Prison population pressures have hindered progress on important initiatives to respond to young adults in age appropriate ways. We hope that alongside the measures being taken to stabilise prison population growth, consideration is given to how best to support young adults to develop positive identities as they navigate the transition to adulthood while in custody. It is our hope that with the presumption against the use of short custodial sentences the creation of distinct young adult community sentences will be developed. Such initiatives are crucial for young adults to reach their potential and move away from crime and therefore key to rehabilitation and improving public safety.
While we understand the need for strong responses to serious offences, careful consideration must be given to how to balance sanction and rehabilitation. Imposing longer sentences on young adults during a critical time in their brain development and social maturation may be counterproductive as removal from society for long periods seriously compromises their ability to build stability in employment, accommodation and relationships, all of which are known to have a great impact on subsequent offending. The greatest impact will fall on the most vulnerable, for young adults who are care experienced it will effectively remove the support available from local authorities that they are entitled to up to the age of 25.
We urge the government to put young adults at the heart of Ministry of Justice’s strategic approach to prisons and community sentencing, by developing and embedding distinct maturity appropriate interventions that ensure young adults are fully supported to live crime free lives.