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Young Adults in Jails

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $500,407)

The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) and the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) propose to work in partnership to design and study a new approach to working with young adults in jails—focused on separate housing, bans on punitive segregation, developmentally tailored programming, and transition planning.

Problem: Adolescent brain development research suggests young adults require tailored interventions that differ from those designed for adolescents and older adults. However, there is a significant gap in evidence based approaches for this population that have been tested in correctional settings.

Goals and Objectives: The goal of this project is to help reduce the current overreliance on punitive, ineffective models of corrections by providing the field with rigorous research on alternative models for young adults by: (1) establishing a partnership between DOC and Vera to inform the design and implementation of young adult units (YAU); (2) informing DOC’s design of the YAU by conducting research synthesizing best practice from the field; (3) evaluating the process, outcomes, and costs of implementing the YAU.

Method: Vera will use mixed methods to measure the impact of the YAU in NYC jails on (a) in-facility infractions and staff use of force, (b) length of stay, (c) use of punitive segregation, (d) program and education participation, (e) short-term recidivism.

Vera and DOC will partner to (1) place a Vera researcher at DOC and engage in collaborative decision-making through monthly project meetings; (2) survey jail administrators and review academic and best practice guides to understand national practices around young adults in jails; (3) collect data from observations on the YAU and interviews with YAU staff and residents; (4) analyze administrative data to assess the process, outcomes, and costs of implementing the YAU; (5) host meetings to discuss research findings and their policy implications; and (6) disseminate findings through reports, peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, and a NYC-based briefing.

Deliverables: The project will produce three reports: (1) Research-in-Brief, describing selected research findings and explaining their implications for corrections practice; (2) Peer Reviewed Journal Articles, presenting evaluation findings; and (3) Research-Practitioner Report, describing the partnership with DOC.

Impact: The lessons learned from this partnership will inform jurisdictions interested in implementing services targeted at young adults. The project will support and influence DOC practices and policies on young adults. Vera will transfer knowledge and develop performance measures so DOC can conduct similar analyses after the conclusion of the partnership.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 16, 2015