Emerging Adults and the Criminal Justice System

Why Emerging Adults Matter: 

“(W)e have not paid enough attention to the later teenage and early adult years as a discrete period of social and behavioral development… If we hope to gain a complete understanding of what works to prevent delinquency from evolving into persistent criminal behavior, we need to look more closely at this critical stage of life and develop our sense of effective interventions and categories of appropriate sanctions.”

Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson
Foreword, From Delinquency to Adult Crime, Oxford University Press
June 2011 

Emerging adults – ages 18 – 24 – constitute a disproportionately large proportion of our criminal justice –involved population, at every stage:  from arrest to jails and prisons and probation and aftercare.  Developmental research indicates important developmental features of this age group, including heightened impulsivity, susceptibility to peer pressure and undeveloped capacities to weigh the consequences of their actions.  On the other hand, emerging adults are also capable of tremendous positive change and growth, with the right support and interventions.  A national dialogue has begun – with the support of the United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Justice Department – about better approaches to dealing with young adults and crime.

To contribute to this momentum, Loyola has convened a series of statewide conferences and workshops to examine the challenges and opportunities arising when young adults are involved in the criminal justice system.  Our workshops and events brought together a wide array of front line justice system practitioners, system leaders and directors and stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, community based service providers, probation officers and corrections leaders and advocates from across the state.   We asked them to share their frank perspectives of what happens when young adults are arrested, held in jails, placed on probation, sent to IDOC and / or placed on parole.  We asked them what works well, and what doesn’t.  We asked them what we know, and where we have gaps in data, research and knowledge. 

These stakeholder conversations confirmed that emerging adults are worthy of our attention:  they require specialized approaches and present unique challenges – and opportunities for positive outcomes -- to the justice system.  Based on this consensus, the Center will develop and gather research, data and best practices to help Illinois stakeholders and national partners chart the course toward more effective criminal justice policy, practice and programs.

National Conference:
Emerging Adults and the Criminal Justice System:  Charting the Course for Policy and Practice

February 19, 2016

Join Loyola University’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice & Civitas ChildLaw Center to develop priorities for improving the outcomes of young adults involved in the criminal justice system and enhancing the safety of our communities.  This conference will culminate a year-long effort to examine challenges and opportunities arising when emerging adults are involved in the justice system.

Convened with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, this conference will highlight insights gleaned from research, data analysis, best practice and the perspectives of front-line practitioners, with the goal of articulating concrete priorities for policy and practice reforms which can improve outcomes for emerging adults and our communities.

Participation is free, but space is limited, and advanced registration is required.  This program has been approved by the Illinois MCLE Board for 5.75 hours of Professionalism CLE credit. 

For more information, see: Conference Flyer (PDF)

To register, visit: www.luc.edu/emergingadults

Young Adults and the Criminal Justice System:  Legislative Hearings

Lisa Jacobs, Program Manager of Loyola's Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice testified on January 22nd before a joint committee hearing of the Illinois General Assembly's House of Representatives.  In addition to Ms. Jacobs, members of the panel included Elizabeth Clarke of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Initiative (http://jjustice.org/), Vincent Schiraldi of Harvard University (http://www.hks.harvard.edu/programs/criminaljustice/people/faculty-staff/vincent-schiraldi) and Ralph Grunewald of the University of Wisconsin.

The hearing was convened to examine the challenges arising when young adults are involved in the state's criminal justice systems, and the opportunities available to improve their outcomes, protect public safety and use scarce public resources effectively.  Committees participating in the hearing included Youth and Young Adults, Human Services, Judiciary - Criminal Justice, and Juvenile Justice and System Involved Youth.

In her testimony, Ms. Jacobs shared findings from a series of workshops and a statewide conference convened by Loyola in 2015 to explore the issues arising when young adults – up to age 25 – are in contact with the criminal justice system.  The Center will continue its work to advance effective policy and practice with a national conference on February 19th entitled Emerging Adults and the Criminal Justice System:  Charting the Course for Policy and Practice.  There is no charge to participate in the conference, but space is limited and registration is required.  See www.luc.edu/emergingadults.

Additional witnesses providing testimony included Loyola Law School graduates Lanetta Haynes Turner (Office of the President, Cook County Board of Commissioners), Patrick Keenan-Devlin (James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy), and Cara Smith (Office of the Cook County Sheriff).