Connecticut to Open First-of-Its-Kind Prison for Young Adults

Young adults are more receptive to behavioral therapies than older inmates.
(Photo: 'The Washington Post'/Getty Images)
Dec 19, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Although an 18th birthday signals the ability to vote or buy a pack of cigarettes, it also marks the point when being convicted of a crime means being sent to a correctional facility for adults. Young people, still capable of aging out of bad behavior, can get lost in the mix.

Hoping to reduce recidivism, this week state officials in Connecticut announced plans to open facilities specifically for young adult inmates, The Associated Press reports. Although prisons around the nation have wards dedicated to young adults, this facility will be the first to house only adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Officials chose 25 as the cutoff mark owing to research showing that the brain is not fully developed until then. It is more similar to that of a juvenile, making young adults more receptive to therapy and more likely to change their behavior than older people.

Out of 15,807 prisoners in Connecticut’s system, roughly 3,000 are between the ages of 18 and 25, the state Department of Corrections told the AP. An existing facility will be converted into a young adult prison for men by 2017, and there are plans to open a similar unit within an existing women’s prison.

“This is the most impulsive population,” Scott Semple, Connecticut’s corrections commissioner, told the AP. “They tend to be involved in more assaults and things of that nature, and what we are trying to do is impact that.”

The National Institute of Justice released a report last year suggesting that courts should either raise the minimum age for adult prisons to 21 or 24 or develop a special set of correctional facilities for young adults that incorporate behavioral therapy along with education and vocational training.

Young adults and juveniles in adult prisons are more likely to recidivate than their peers in the juvenile system, according to a 2012 study by the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. These young people are also more easily manipulated and influenced by older inmates.

Corrections officials will receive special training for working with young adults, and the facility will incorporate behavior modification programs used in youth programs.

“What I envision is that incident rates will go down systemwide,” said Semple. “It also gives us the greatest potential to reduce the recidivism rate in a large way.”