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People do not automatically become adults when they reach 18, an age we operationally define as the beginning of adulthood. The actual development into a mature, independent adult occurs well past the 18th birthday. Research reveals that the brain continues to develop into the mid-20s. Cognitive abilities develop more quickly than executive function and psychsocial skills, causing a maturity gap. Young people are more likely to:
  • exhibit risk-seeking behavior
  • struggle to moderate responses to emotionally-charged situations
  • develop an outcomes-aware method of decision-making
Trouble with executive function can make it hard to control impulses, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things. The self-management and executive skills every person eventually develops include:
  • self-restraint and impulse control
  • emotion control
  • defining and achieving goals
  • distress tolerance
  • successful problem-solving
That these executive skills are yet to be fully developed by the time a person is 18 leaves them particularly vulnerable to behaviors which result in their incarceration. Once they are incarcerated, the question then becomes do you treat them with programs designed for juveniles or programming designed for adults.

The same is true in probation and parole. Adult probation departments commonly prioritize surveillance and compliance over continuing growth and development, which can result in high rates of re-offending and violation in this population.

As state justice systems around the country begin to address these issues, it is clear that there is a need for programming specifically shaped to this particular group. At Phoenix/New Freedom Programming, our experience in creating effective, custom change programming for both juvenile and adults leave us well-suited to assist the creation of outcomes-focused models for use in both residential facilities and probation/parole situations.

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