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A neuropsychologist from the University of Exeter called for better treatment of young adults.

Researcher gives evidence on young adult offenders in wake of deaths

A neuropsychologist from the University of Exeter called for better treatment of young adults when giving evidence to an influential parliamentary inquiry yesterday.

Professor Huw Williams addressed the Justice Committee meeting on young adult offenders, which is gathering evidence following Lord Harris of Haringey’s independent review examining the circumstances in which a number of young adults had died in custody.

Professor Williams said: “The Justice Committee is looking into why so many young people in prison are vulnerable and suicidal. And what can be done to reduce re-offending. I am very pleased that the Justice Committee is showing such a strong interest in how young people in prisons often have issues around how their brains have delayed maturing, due to traumatic lives and brain injuries. I provided research-based evidence on how such lives can be turned around, by having dedicated care coordinators, universal screening for mental health and for neurodisability issues, and active rehabilitation towards life goals. Our evidence shows that such initiatives could also lead to significant cost savings. I look forward to the recommendations of the Committee.”

Max Rutherford, from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which has funded Prof Williams’ research, told the committee that "Containing young adults for 23 hours a day in their cells, albeit perhaps in cells where there are fewer ligature points from which to hang themselves, is not going to keep staff safe and it's not going to achieve any positive outcomes post-release".

In his review, Lord Harris made recommendations for urgent action to divert young people from custody, and to improve the custody system for young people. The Committee is now holding an enquiry to assess the implications of these recommendations on practice. It will also examine the evidence on more effective or appropriate treatment of young adults throughout the criminal justice process, and will review the impact of guidance to prosecutors and judges, which advises that they consider the maturity of the offender in their decisions. The Committee’s recommendations will be considered by Government.

You can watch the Justice Committee inquiry session here.

See an infographic created by Professor Huw Williams.

Date: 27 April 2016

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