Young Adults in Conflict with the Law: Opportunities for Diversion
Published Feb 9, 2015, Kanako Ishida, Juvenile Justice Initiative
While in most states (including Illinois) young people are treated as adults by the justice system once they turn 18, research in recent years suggests that people ages 18 – 24 are not yet fully mature adults. The young adult brain is still developing, and young adults are in transition from adolescence to adulthood. Further, the ongoing development of their brains means they have a high capacity for reform and rehabilitation. Young adults are, neurologically and developmentally, closer to adolescents than they are to adults. Prosecuting and sentencing young adults in the adult criminal justice system deprives them of their chance to become productive members of society, leads to high recidivism rates, and high jail and prison populations, and increased costs to society through subsequent incarceration and unemployment.
Several nations have already extended “juvenile” alternatives to young adults. In order to explore this new frontier, the Juvenile Justice Initiative examined arrests and jail admissions of Illinois’ young adults age 18 – 24 in CY2013. This paper will document the JJI’s analysis of Illinois’ arrests and admissions to the Cook County Department of Corrections (i.e., Cook County Jail), and examine emerging trends in policy and practice to address the issues posed by young adults in conflict with the law.