People aged 18-24 account for a quarter of all people committed to prison — and more than two thirds of them reoffend after release, according to a report.
Penal reformers said the current system is “failing too many young adults”, often making them “more, not less, likely” to reoffend.
Publishing its Turnaround Youth report at a conference today, the Irish Penal Reform Trust is calling on the Department of Justice to draw up a specific strategy for 18-24-year-olds.
The report said this age group accounted for 26% of those committed to prison in 2013 and 24% in 2014.
“In Ireland, young adults are disproportionately represented in the Irish Prison System,” the report said.
Central Statistics Office population figures show that 18% of the 15-64 age group is aged between 15 and 24, a bigger age group than 18-24.
Of the 13,408 individuals committed to prison in 2014:
It said research on reoffending rates showed that prison was “an inappropriate and counterproductive means” of dealing with young adult offenders.
Irish Prison Service research shows 68% of 18- to 24-year-olds reoffended after release from prison — compared to 53% among those aged over 26.
The report criticised the approach of the State in treating everyone who reaches the age of 18 as “immediately answerable” to laws governing adult behaviour “regardless of their level of maturity or vulnerability”.
It urged the Government to implement current strategies to support transition into adulthood and copy the Garda Diversion Programme for 18- to 21-year-olds.
The report wanted greater resourcing of community and youth projects aimed at diverting young people from offending. It recommended more alternatives to custody, including restorative justice, and rehabilitation for those exiting prison.
It said many countries, including Britain, Germany, Austria, and Croatia, were moving towards distinct approaches to youth offending.
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