Many offenders have their first contact with the criminal justice system in emerging adulthood. Despite this, the implications of emerging adult-onset offending for criminal justice responses have received little attention. Using data from the 1983/1984 Queensland Cross-sector Research Collaboration and the Dutch 1984-birth cohort study, we explore emerging adult offending trajectories, with particular emphasis on those who onset in emerging adulthood. Findings indicate that half of all offenders – and approximately 75% of emerging adult offenders – onset in adulthood. 95% of emerging adult-onset offenders were low rate, less serious offenders whose offences seemed to reflect the social behaviour, culture and developmental ‘struggles’ associated with emerging adulthood. Based on this, and a larger body of work on emerging adult offending, we argue that diversionary practices may be more appropriate, efficient and cost-effective than charging and court processing for many emerging adult offenders.

Presented by Dr Carleen Thompson

Carleen Thompson is Co-Lead of the Queensland Cross-sector Research Collaboration, a Project Investigator on the Transforming Corrections to Transform Lives project, and a Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. Carleen’s research aims to improve understanding of the causes and progression of offending to drive evidence-based intervention planning that reduces re-offending. Carleen has established strong partnerships across government departments, with 16 years’ experience using her research to help policy-makers and practitioners more effectively target interventions on the basis of offenders’ risks and needs. Carleen’s research has led to state-wide changes in risk assessment practices across child protection, youth justice and adult corrections. Adult risk assessments she has developed are utilised in both prisons and community corrections in several states in Australia. Moreover, her research on life course offending patterns recently contributed to the introduction of a police cautioning scheme for adults across Queensland.

Watch a recording of the presentation below.