The struggles of young people turning 18 while in contact with the criminal justice system are the focus of a new UK report

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The Alliance for Youth Justice (AYJ) has recently published a report as part of their three-year project 'Young People in Transition in the Criminal Justice System', funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust. The project and the report examine the experiences of children and young people turning 18 while in contact with the criminal justice system in England and Wales. They focus on three thematic areas: custody, safeguarding young people at risk, and racial injustice.

The report reminds that the maturation process of a young person goes into "at least their mid-twenties", as proved by scientific evidence, and states that this requires a corresponding distinct criminal justice response. However, as the report states, "policy and practice for older children and young adults often fails to recognise this."

The report highlights that "as young people transition into adulthood and move from Youth Offending Teams to Probation, how they are supported changes significantly. Key relationships are lost, contact levels drop, resources and support reduces, and the overall ethos switches from a focus on welfare to enforcement."

It also reminds that "young people in the justice system are highly vulnerable with prevalent experiences of violence, abuse, mental ill-health, substance misuse, and the care system. [...] Racially minoritised young people, girls, and neurodiverse young people face significant structural disadvantages, concerning outcomes, and particularly destabilising transitions."

The report provides recommendations in order to provide these young people a holistic and intersectional response to the challenges of this transition, and advocates for providing continuing support and adaptations for young people in line with their maturation process until they turn 25.