Young Women’s justice project: Literature review





Young adult women in the criminal justice system face multiple forms of disadvantage. Frequently marginalised, ignored and misunderstood, they are likely to have complex, overlapping needs, with their experience of contact with the justice system underpinned by experiences of violence, abuse trauma and exploitation, the care system, poor mental health, substance use, exclusion from education, homelessness, and poverty. The challenges they face are mutually reinforcing and create a complicated combination of factors that can drive their offending.

There remains continued overrepresentation of Black and minoritised young women, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young women, as well as young women with experience of the care system. Evidence suggests that girls (under 18) are more likely to come to the attention of the criminal justice system because of their vulnerability and the risks they face, rather than the severity of their offending.

This literature review has been produced to:  map and further add to the evidence-base around young adult women in contact with the criminal justice system; provide a foundation for more effective policy and practice by identifying the core components of an age-appropriate, gender-sensitive and trauma-informed response; and identify gaps in knowledge in order to inform the direction of future work.


Reference:  Agenda & AYJ. (2021). Young Women’s justice project: Literature review. London: Alliance for Women and Girls at Risk, Alliance for Youth Justice




Agenda and the Alliance for Youth Justice (AYJ) published this literature review (2021) as part of the Young Women’s Justice Project  which shines a light on the experiences of young  women aged 17–25 years old in contact with the criminal justice system, including the experiences of girls transitioning into adult services as they turn 18.   




Note that grey literature publications should be referenced in the normal (Author, date) convention. Grey literature is any information that is not produced by commercial publishers. It includes research reports, working papers, conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, and reports produced by government departments, academics, business, and industry, although here at we collate academic research (social research that has a particular theoretical framework) separately from research that is survey-based.



Download this file (AYJ [2021b].pdf)AYJ [2021b].pdf[Agenda & AYJ. (2021). Young Women’s justice project: Literature review. London: Alliance for Women and Girls at Risk, Alliance for Youth Justice]939 kB
Download this file (AYJ-YWJP-Summary.pdf)AYJ-YWJP-Summary.pdf[Young Women’s Justice Project Literature Review Executive Summary]9920 kB

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