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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Helping young adult prisoners

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The SPCR study has spawned a new MoJ report on the characteristics and needs of young adult (18-20 years old) prisoners and helps to inform resettlement planning.

The needs and characteristics of young adults in custody

The Survey in Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR) study just keeps on giving – which is, of course, the benefits of a longitudinal study. SPCR has followed up 1435 adult prisoners sentenced to between one month and four years in prison in 2005 and 2006. (You can see some of the other findings here.)

The most recent report (published 30 July 2015) looks at the needs and characteristics of young adults in custody; in this case young adults are defined as being 18 – 20 years old, rather than the normal 18 – 25 years age bracket known as “young adult offenders”.

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Key findings

  • Young adult SPCR respondents in custody shared a number of needsSPCR young adults in custody and background characteristics with older prisoners, with all ages reporting high levels of need in terms of employment, education and substance misuse. However there were a number of differences, which included:
  • Young adults were more likely than older prisoners to report issues with schooling, with large proportions reporting having regularly played truant (72%), having been temporarily excluded (80%) or permanently expelled (58%) from school .
  • Young adults who reported being unemployed in the four weeks before custody were more likely to report that they were looking for work or training during this time (62%) compared with older prisoners (35%). Young adults were also more likely to state that having a job when released would stop them from re-offending (81% compared with 66% of older prisoners).
  • Fewer young adults reported needing help finding a place to live when released (23% compared with 39% of older prisoners).
  • Young adults entering custody were less likely than prisoners aged 21 and over to report needing help with a medical problem (10% compared to 20%) and less likely to be assessed as suffering from both anxiety and depression (15% compared with 27%).
  • Compared with older prisoners, young adults were less likely to report needing help with a drug problem (15% compared with 33%). Young adults were less likely than older prisoners to report having used a Class A drug in the four weeks before custody (31% compared with 45%). A smaller proportion of young adults than older prisoners linked their offending behaviour with drugs (25% compared with 46%).
  • On the other hand, a larger proportion of young adults compared with older prisoners linked their offending behaviour with alcohol use (42% compared with 30%) and stated that not drinking too much alcohol would be important in stopping them from re-offending in the future (47% compared with 32%).

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Conclusions

These findings suggest that resettlement plans for young adult prisoners should focus on helping them improve basic literacy and numeracy skills and gain any skills relevant for finding work. Help finding employment will also be key, particularly since this age group appears to be more motivated to get a job. Finally, helping young adult prisoners understand the link between their alcohol use and offending and develop strategies to change this behaviour is likely to be a key element in helping them desist from crime.

 

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