To end the age of incarceration, three communities pioneer a developmental approach

May 11, 2023

People ages 18 to 25 are over-represented at every stage of the criminal legal system and have the highest recidivism rate of any age group. It is obvious that we are responding badly to the developmental needs of these emerging adults — and “we” includes everything from schools and health care to law enforcement, judicial and correctional systems. If we want the United States to stop being the largest carceral state in the world, an excellent first step would be to reform policy and practice to better meet the needs of this distinct group. 

A strong and growing body of science tells us that brain development continues into the mid-20s. In broad brush strokes, people in this age group are more likely to be impulsive and risk-taking but are also particularly malleable. And if given the opportunity to do so, most will mature out of lawbreaking as they transition fully into adulthood.