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A new model emerges for the treatment of young people behind bars.

Research shows that many young adults are still developing through age 25: they are as capable as older adults in some ways, but more similar to younger adolescents in others.Carl Zimmer, “You’re an Adult. Your Brain, Not So Much.,” New York Times, December 21, 2016. This has impacts for juvenile justice: a 2014 study found that young adults are disproportionately represented in facility disciplinary actions—including the use of solitary confinement—and three-quarters of young adults are rearrested within three years of release.Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014, (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2014), 5.

In Connecticut, the Department of Correction initiated a pilot program for young adults between 18 to 25 years old that has transformed conditions of confinement for them.Office of the Governor, “Gov. Malloy Announces Opening of State’s New Corrections Unit Exclusively for Young Adult Offenders,” press release (Hartford, CT: Office of the Governor, March 13, 2017); and Mark Pazniokas, “Young Inmates Tell Malloy About a New Way in an Old Prison,” Connecticut Mirror, March 14, 2017. The innovative T.R.U.E. unit reimagines the purpose of incarceration from retribution to restoration, treating incarcerated young adults as individuals; prioritizing relationships with staff, peers and supports outside the prison; working to give young people who are incarcerated the life and family skills they will need for successful reentry to society; and equipping facility staff with specialized training to assist in this mission.Mikaela Porter, “New Prison Program Pairs Mentors with Young Offenders,” Hartford Courant, March 13, 2017; and Jordan and Tarence, “Connecticut’s T.R.U.E. Prison Program Offers New Beginnings,” Vera Institute of Justice, May 2, 2017.  The approach is being replicated by the Middlesex County, Massachusetts, sheriff’s office and other jurisdictions as part of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Restoring Promise initiative.For the Massachusetts initiative, see Rick Sobey, “Middlesex Sheriff Koutoujian Joins Forces with UTEC to Assist Young Offenders,” Lowell Sun, November 22, 2017. For Vera’s initiative, see Alex Frank, “Restoring Promise: A Young Adult Reform Initiative,” Vera Institute of Justice.