Columbia Justice Lab

Shaping Justice for the Future

Emerging Adult Project

Bridging justice between childhood and adulthood

The Emerging Adult Project at the Justice Lab leads action research projects focused on 18-25-year-olds involved in the justice system. Our mission is to inform and drive developmentally appropriate and effective justice responses that advance successful paths to adulthood.


The Emerging Adult Justice Learning Community is a Justice Lab initiative to convene young adult justice researchers, practitioners and policy makers nation-wide to pioneer new and improved justice system approaches to emerging adults.

Emerging Adult Justice Learning Community, 2017-2020
The Emerging Adult Justice Learning Community (EAJLC) is a carefully organized collaborative learning environment that brings together researchers, practitioners, policy makers and advocates twice a year over a three-year period in order to create more developmentally appropriate, effective and fairer criminal justice responses for youths ages 18 – 25. Participants of the Learning Community are all engaged in some aspect of this work in their professional pursuits.

Despite the fact that emerging adults have some of the worst criminal justice outcomes in our justice system, little attention has been paid to the research that would support new and improved justice system responses. The Learning Community’s goals are to provide researchers and policy makers access to one another in order to increase learning, practice and policy innovations by translating academic research into effective policies and developing opportunities to research burgeoning practices that contribute to a more equitable treatment of this population.


Check our news page, What’s New in the World of Emerging Adult Justice? to learn more about recent developments in EAJ.

To learn more about the Emerging Adult Project at the Justice Lab or sign up for our listserv, contact Lael Chester.

EAJ Resources


Combating the Crisis: Using justice reform to address drug epidemic among emerging adults, Selen Siringil Perker and Lael Chester, January 2018

Emerging Adults: A distinct population that calls for an age-appropriate approach by the justice system. Selen Siringil Perker and Lael Chester. 2017.

Public Safety and Emerging Adults in Connecticut: Providing Effective and Developmentally Appropriate Responses for Youth Under Age 21. Lael Chester and Vincent Schiraldi. 2016.

Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults. Vincent Schiraldi, Bruce Western and Kendra Bradner. 2015.


From Juvenile Delinquency to Young Adult Offending: Study Group on the Transitions between Juvenile Delinquency & Adult Crime. Rolf Loeber, David P. Farrington, David Petechuk. 2013. National Institute of Justice.

Viewing Justice Reinvestment through a Developmental Lens: New Approaches to Reducing Young Adult Recidivism in MA. Ben Forman and Sarah Yee. 2015. MassINC.  

Reducing Recidivism & Improving Other Outcomes for Young Adults in the Juvenile & Adult Criminal Justice System. Council of State Government's Justice Center (CSG). 2015.

Young Adults in Conflict with the Law: Opportunities for Diversion. Kanako Ishida. 2015. Juvenile Justice Initiative.

Improving Approaches to Serving Young Adults in the Justice System. Justice Policy Institute. 2016.


Other Resources
The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG)
Justice Policy Institute (JPI)
Juvenile Justice Initiative
National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ)
National Institute of Justice
National Partnership for Juvenile Services
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)
Roca, Inc.
Transition to Adulthood Alliance (UK)
Youth First Initiative


Emerging Adult Justice In the News

Why including emerging adults in CT’s juvenile justice system makes sense. CT Viewpoints, March 23, 2018. Vincent Schiraldi and Lael Chester.

As Patriots, we support juvenile justice reform. The Boston Globe, February 5, 2018. Devin McCourty, Jonathan Kraft and Robert Kraft.

Massachusetts justice system wrestles with how to define 'adult'. Christian Science Monitor, December 7, 2017.Gretel Kauffman and Bailey Bischoff.

Massachusetts criminal justice bill is welcome reform. The Boston Globe, November 8, 2017. Nancy Gertner, Vincent Schiraldi and Bruce Western.

18-year-olds can barely rent cars. Are they old enough for jail? The Boston Globe, November 8, 2017. David Scharfenberg.

Criminal justice bill can be game changer for young adults. Commonwealth Magazine, October 26, 2017. Gregg Croteau and Molly Baldwin.

Extended Adolescence: When 25 Is the New 18. Scientific American, September 19, 2017.Bret Stetka.

Think outside box to deal with young adult criminals. The Boston Herald, February 8, 2017.Frank G. Cousins Jr. and Steven W. Tompkins.

UTEC youth led the charge for expungement in justice reform legislation. Lowell Sun. April 28, 2018. Samantha J. Gross.

We’re not done with criminal justice reform. The Boston Globe. April 18, 2018. David Scharfenberg.

In Billerica, Young Prisoners Give Freedom A Trial Run. WGBH News. April 5, 2018. Story by Cristina Quinn on the new specialized correctional unit for young adults, People Achieving Change Together (P.A.C.T.) unit, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

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