Young adult offenders: criminal law and judicial response

October 1, 2018 to June 30, 2022
45 months

The criminal response to the offending of young adults has gathered increased focus within criminal policy and research internationally, in a context of growing social and political concern with security, recidivism, drug addiction and alcoholism, especially among juveniles (Görgen et al 2013; Pruin&Dünkel 2015). Recently, interdisciplinary research has found that early adulthood is a crucial period in "criminal careers" (Lagrange 2010; Junger-Tas et al 2011); there?s little evidence to justify why the same regulations, procedures and legislation are not applied to young adults (18-24) as to the under 18s; and the existing intervention programs are inefficient and insufficient (Chesney-Lind et al 2008; Pruin&Dünkel 2015). Consequently, a growing number of European reports and recommendations emerged requiring the development and effective implementation of a flexible range of alternative and educational sanctions and measures for young adult offenders, such as Recommendation (2003) 20 and (2008) 11 of the Council of Europe. Portugal's criminal law has a special regime for young adults aged between 16 and 21 years that provides for a mitigation of sentence and/or the application of specific educational sanctions. However, the imposition of this regime is optional, as in most European countries. The aim of this project is to understand how the Portuguese legal and judicial system responds to young adults offenders under this special criminal law regime. This general objective can be divided in four specific ones: 1. Assess Portuguese responses defined by Criminal Law and justice in its relations with European legislation and criminal policy recommendations; 2. The articulation (or not) of the special regime with the Juvenile and general Criminal Laws; 3. How and why the special regime is applied (or not), through a sociodemographical characterization of the selected young adults, analysis of their individual paths and patterns of criminal behavior, and sanctions and measures applied. Hence, a sample of resolved cases of criminal offenses by young adults, aged between 16 and 21, will be collected and analyzed in the Criminal Court of Lisbon. 4. Promote knowledge transfer between researchers and judicial/non-judicial professionals and policy-makers, contributing to a more inclusive criminal policy and justice systems, which respond to the special needs of young adults. The work developed previously by the team on Juvenile Justice (Pedroso et al. 2016), as well as the knowledge brought by the scientific advisory board (Yves Cartuyvels; Wanda Capeller). are valuable assets to the development of this project. This is an innovative study in Portugal, since the existing studies usually focus on adults or juvenile delinquency, which intends to answer, simultaneously, to the societal challenges "Europe in a changing world" and "Secure societies".


Website with open data, publications, Handbook on Young Adult Crime, international conference, training courses.

young adults, cime, criminal law, judicial response, crime
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology