Three Jurisdictions to Test Justice Framework for Young Adults

Posted March 20, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A diverse group of young adults holds a brainstorming session in a professional setting. Two young women — one white and one Black — hold up a poster board, with yellow Post-It notes affixed to it. A lively discussion ensues around them.

Participants in the Washington, D.C. Emerging Adult Justice Series hosted by the Thrive Under 25 Coalition, with support from the Justice Policy Institute, Feb. 2023.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has award­ed grants to three juris­dic­tions to test and help refine a devel­op­men­tal frame­work — or set of prin­ci­ples — focused specif­i­cal­ly on achiev­ing pos­i­tive out­comes for peo­ple ages 18 to 25 involved in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. For the next two and a half years, gov­ern­ment agen­cies and com­­mu­ni­­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions in Mass­a­chu­setts, Nebras­ka and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., will work with young adults to deter­mine how best to apply the prin­ci­ples to poli­cies and prac­tices that help this group of peo­ple thrive.

As part of the solic­i­ta­tion and selec­tion process, Casey part­nered with the Emerg­ing Adult Jus­tice Project at Colum­bia University’s Jus­tice Lab. The Project will pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance to all three sites test­ing the devel­op­men­tal framework.

This exper­i­men­ta­tion will put these juris­dic­tions at the fore­front of a bur­geon­ing field, tar­get­ing an age group that has long been over­rep­re­sent­ed and under­served by the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” says Felipe Fran­co, a senior fel­low at the Foundation.

Meet the Awardees

Mass­a­chu­setts: Legal Defense

The Com­mit­tee for Pub­lic Coun­sel Ser­vices (CPCS), the statewide pub­lic defend­er agency, will lead a test of the devel­op­men­tal frame­work in the con­text of indi­gent defense rep­re­sen­ta­tion of emerg­ing adults. The juve­nile and adult divi­sions of CPCS will work togeth­er and with oth­er orga­ni­za­tions to advo­cate for emerg­ing adults’ well-being and social, psy­cho­log­i­cal and oth­er needs. Com­mu­ni­ty part­ners include UTEC, a youth orga­ni­za­tion with exper­tise in sup­port­ing the well­ness, devel­op­ment and lead­er­ship skills of emerg­ing adults involved in the jus­tice sys­tem. The ini­tia­tive begins with pilots in Low­ell and Lawrence with plans to expand statewide.

Nebras­ka: Pro­ba­tion and Reen­try Poli­cies and Practices

The Nebras­ka Admin­is­tra­tive Office of the Courts and Pro­ba­tion (AOCP) will apply the frame­work to reshape the agency’s prac­tices for young adults ages 18 to 25 who are on com­mu­ni­ty super­vi­sion. Begin­ning in two com­mu­ni­ties — one rur­al and one urban — AOCP will train a group of pro­ba­tion offi­cers to spe­cial­ize in work with emerg­ing adults, includ­ing con­duct­ing indi­vid­u­al­ized and strengths-based case plan­ning and part­ner­ing with com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions to sup­port pos­i­tive learn­ing, growth and devel­op­ment. AOCP will col­lab­o­rate with emerg­ing adults and orga­ni­za­tions such as the RISE pris­on­er reen­try pro­gram and the Nation­al Cen­ter for State Courts.

Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Con­tin­u­um of Care

Jus­tice Pol­i­cy Insti­tute and oth­er mem­bers of the D.C. Emerg­ing Adult Jus­tice Action Col­lab­o­ra­tive will use the frame­work to pro­vide more devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate respons­es to emerg­ing adults who are pros­e­cut­ed for crim­i­nal offens­es, as set forth in the District’s Youth Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Amend­ment Act of 2018. This includes cre­at­ing a com­mu­ni­ty-based con­tin­u­um of care for emerg­ing adults with jus­tice-sys­tem involve­ment, cov­er­ing basic needs such as afford­able hous­ing and health ser­vices and pro­vid­ing ded­i­cat­ed sup­port for this age group through spe­cial­ized court pro­grams, pro­ba­tion poli­cies, phys­i­cal facil­i­ties and reen­try sup­port ser­vices. Through­out the imple­men­ta­tion process, emerg­ing adults with cur­rent or pre­vi­ous jus­tice involve­ment will advise JPI and its part­ners — the Thrive Under 25 Coali­tion and Free Minds Book Club & Writ­ing Work­shop, among others.

We are excit­ed to be work­ing across pro­fes­sions and roles in three very dif­fer­ent places,” says Lael E.H. Chester, direc­tor of the Emerg­ing Adult Jus­tice Project. Our goal is not to pro­vide a one-size-fits-all solu­tion for emerg­ing adult jus­tice but to explore how dif­fer­ent sys­tems can adapt to put young peo­ple on a path to success.”

Why Focus on Young Adults

Nation­al­ly, peo­ple ages 18 to 25 are overrep­re­sent­ed through­out the crim­i­nal legal sys­tem, have the high­est recidi­vism rates and expe­ri­ence the most extreme racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly in cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties. Too often, the jus­tice sys­tem fails to rec­og­nize the devel­op­men­tal needs of this pop­u­la­tion and treats emerg­ing adults in almost the same man­ner as old­er, ful­ly mature adults.

The Foun­da­tion is ded­i­cat­ing at least half of its invest­ments over the next decade to improv­ing the well-being and prospects of youth and young adults so that they can thrive by age 25. The Foundation’s Thrive by 25® com­mit­ment rec­og­nizes that the road to adult­hood can be a chal­leng­ing one for many, but youth and emerg­ing adults in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, young peo­ple of col­or in low-income fam­i­lies, youth in high-pover­­ty com­mu­ni­ties, young par­ents and youth mak­ing the tran­si­tion from fos­ter care to adult­hood face sig­nif­i­cant obsta­cles that can stall their aspi­ra­tions and prospects or derail them entire­ly. These young peo­ple are there­fore the Foundation’s focus — and more impor­tant­ly, part­ners — for its Thrive by 25 efforts to invest in pro­grams and advance poli­cies to help them change the tra­jec­to­ry of their lives and pre­vent life­long problems.

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