Reducing Youth Recidivism Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s Brain Science

This past Tuesday MassINC convened leading criminal justice experts and policy makers at the State House for a conversation on our new report examining strategies to reduce recidivism by responding to the developmental needs of justice-involved young adults.

The new MassINC research  finds residents ages 18 to 24 are the most likely demographic to find their way into Massachusetts prisons and the quickest to return to them upon release.  Research ties this pattern to brain science. Young adults are prone to making poor decisions because they do not develop full control over their impulses until their mid-20s. While most young offenders stop breaking the law as they mature, spending time in adult prisons at this sensitive stage makes them more likely to reoffend.

Changing Massachusetts’s approach to young offenders should be a central focus for the state’s efforts to reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The State House forum brought together experts in the field to discuss the state’s current approach to dealing with justice-involved young adults and opportunities to improve outcomes by changing policy and practice.  The panel included Vinny Schiraldi, the Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the Kennedy School of Government;  Senator Will Brownsberger, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary; Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of ROCA;  and Ed Dolan, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Probation Service. Naoka Carey , the Executive Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice led the conversation.

While each panelist expressed different perspectives on why youth have repeat interactions with the criminal justice system, they all agreed that current science shows that to curb the high rate of recidivism among justice-involved young adults the state needs to find more appropriate ways to address their developmental needs while they are involved in the criminal justice system.

Checkout coverage of the event by WBUR and WWLP

Watch the full event below.

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