The bridge into adulthood
New data obtained by Revolving Doors Agency under the Freedom of Information legislation and published today reveals that:
- Over half of all reoffences committed by young adults are theft and summary non-violent offences.
- Young adults whose index offences are theft and summary non-motoring offences also have the highest rates of reoffending in the same category as their index offence.
- Theft creates the highest level of churn of repeat offences in the same category, with a ratio of 994 reoffences per 1,000 reoffenders.
- This rate is strikingly above any other crime category. It is 12 times higher than repeated possession of a weapon (for example carrying knives) and 6 times higher than repeated violence against a person.
These new figures expose the difference in demand created by young adults committing more serious and sometimes violent crime and the group often called ‘the revolving door’ who commit persistent low-level offences driven by a combination of needs stemming from complex trauma and poverty. These repeated, non-violent offences drive demand for our police, courts and justice system but are driven by underlying, unaddressed need.
The volume and churn of young adults who are sucked into the criminal justice system for relatively minor offences highlights the need for a radical new approach. The current failing approach resulted in the proportion of people with a history of repeat offending reaching at its highest ever level, accounting for nearly two fifths of all offenders.
This stark evidence comes at the same time as Revolving Doors publish an evidence briefing “New Generation” highlighting the critical role of Police and Crime Commissioners and police services in preventing the new generation of young adults entering the revolving door. The report brings together new perspectives on characteristics and needs of young adults in this group their presentation in the criminal justice system.
Young people caught in the revolving door
People in the revolving door are characterised by repeated low-level, non-violent offences, such as theft and minor drug offences, driven by multiple unmet needs, including mental ill health, problematic substance use, homelessness and domestic abuse. Their health, care and offending-related needs go hand in hand with trauma, persistent poverty, long-term unemployment and social exclusion.
The idea that a significant proportion of all crime is committed by a relatively small number of persistent offenders is not new but in recent years this pattern has become even clearer.
- The total number of people formally dealt with by the criminal justice system in England and Wales is at its lowest since records began, and fell 2% in 20192. At the same time, the proportion of adults convicted for an indictable offence with a history of repeat offending is now at its highest ever level, accounting for nearly two-fifths (39%) of the offending population.
- In 2018, 60,000 cautions or convictions for low-level, non-violent offences were given to people who had 11 or more previous convictions. These individuals alone had a total of over 1.8 million previous cautions
- or convictions for similar low-level, non-violent offences.
- The Ministry of Justice recently analysed the first and last offence committed by ‘prolific offenders’. It found that theft and summary non-motoring offences were the most common offences committed by adult prolific offenders. This was the case for both offenders who committed their first offence as a juvenile and those who committed their first offence as an adult (see graphic below).
- Theft and summary non-motoring convictions dominate the entire offending histories of both juvenile and adult prolific offenders.
This data shows that we are failing to provide effective interventions for people caught in the revolving door of crime and crisis. As yet there has been no national drive to effectively address the low-level
and non-violent crimes people caught in the revolving door commit. RDA argues that something needs to change if we are going to break the cycle
Childhoods of abuse and neglect
RDA’s ongoing work with young people caught up in the revolving doors found that they experience more challenges, more severely and for longer than others. A pattern is emerging of childhood experiences that lead to an adult becoming stuck in the revolving door of crisis and crime. It involves exceptional levels of abuse, neglect and household disruption – sometimes within the context of community violence that the World Health Organization would normally associate with war zones. These childhoods are blighted by poverty so profound that three meals a day are not guaranteed. These young people are then repeatedly processed through the criminal justice system until they are stuck in the revolving door.
Early intervention is key
On the whole, the criminal justice system fails to recognise the combined impact of trauma and poverty on the lives of young adults entering the revolving door and therefore break the cycle of crisis and crime. Numerous services withdraw support when young people are transitioning from children’s services to adult services.
The police are often left to pick up the pieces. The police and others can see that these young adults are not growing out of it, in fact our evidence suggests that a significant number of young adults are on the cusp of entering the revolving door. If we don’t intervene we run this risk of people cycling through
the system for a decade or more. Young adulthood is the point where we need to intervene more effectively.
There is a plethora of evidence to demonstrate that each contact with the criminal justice system harms future life chances, and that the deeper into the criminal justice system young adults move, the more likely they are to reoffend. A priority for the whole system must be to pro-actively divert young adults in the revolving door away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate support services.
RDA hopes that this evidence will lead to greater prioritisation of young adults. Revolving Doors Agency will support local areas to deliver change by offering support to PCCs and their offices to start the process of working ‘up stream’ with young adults entering the revolving door of crisis and crime.
Revolving Doors Agency will be offering bespoke consultancy and intensive on the ground support for five areas to kick-start local initiatives. These sites will benefit from our research, lived experience, policy and service design expertise. The support, which will be free of charge, can help Police and Crime Commissioners and their offices implement new strategies to support better options for young adults, such as deferred prosecutions or diversion schemes to keep young adults out of the criminal justice system.