New CSG data provide important insights on young adult justice

The Council of State Governments Justice reinvestment team convened the working group for a third meeting this week. Their presentation focused on recidivism with particular attention to pretrial decision-making, incarcerated populations, and programming within HOC institutions. The CSG also provided an addendum with additional slides.

A couple of thoughts based on the data and reactions from the working group:

  • The new figures affirm how crucial the young adult population is to reducing recidivism: CSG data show young adults reoffend at the highest rates, as we noted in our research brief, but they also tend to serve longer HOC sentences (slide 31). This is largely driven by a disproportionate number of weapons offences for this population (addendum slide 16). We should be able to use this longer stay in HOC custody well, but there’s general agreement that this population isn’t served effectively with current prison education and rehabilitation programs.
  • The addendum included another new really striking data point to inform the young adult conversation: It turns out that the young adult incarcerated population is significantly more disproportionately minority than older inmates (slide 27). This information invites a discussion about whether these incarcerated youth really have high criminal tendencies. The data seem to suggest it’s likely that many have been drawn into a justice system by our failure to support them during a difficult period of transition.
  • There were glaring examples of where lack of representation from communities of color on the working group are leading to missed opportunities for dialogue. For instance, while there was a thoughtful discussion about whether the use of a pretrial risk assessment tool might have the unintended consequence of increasing the number of defendants detained awaiting trial, including the possibility that a tool without proper validation could increase racial disparities, there was almost no discussion about the large racial disparities that currently exist in pretrial. The addendum did include one slide on racial and ethnic disparities in the jail population (slide 25), but it was not presented to the group.

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