Issues surrounding the youth justice system are to be put at the top of the agenda by the Home Office after the release of an influential Birmingham-based report.
Ministers have already signalled their intention to look into the findings of an independent commission set up by Birmingham charitable foundation Barrow Cadbury Trust.
The Commission on Young Adults and the Criminal Justice System consulted a wide range of Birmingham community groups during the study, which calls for an overhaul of the youth justice system.
The report, Lost in Transition: Young Adults & the Criminal Justice System, claims that treating young offenders like adult criminals makes them more likely to re-offend.
Nearly three quarters of 18 to 20-year-olds are convicted of another offence after release from the prison system, the report states.
The commission calls for the merging of the youth and adult criminal justice systems into one criminal justice system that would enable provision to be tailored on the basis of maturity and individual need, rather than age alone.
Criminal justice approaches that are more discriminating towards ages of young adults have already been adopted elsewhere in Europe.
The commission's chairman, Greg Parston, said: "Our failure to address the needs of young adult offenders in transition to adulthood is wasting young adults' lives as well as huge amounts of public money, and not reducing crime.
"If we want safer communities, public services, including the criminal justice system, need to be better geared to help young people in trouble grow into adulthood, and lead crime-free lives.
"The commission urges the Home Office to look seriously at a new approach to young adult offenders."
The commission took advantage of the BCT's strong Birmingham roots when it carried out its research.
Many of the groups who were consulted receive funding from the trust, which has its roots with Birmingham's famous chocolate- making family.
Among the Midland groups involved with the study were Young Disciples, Young Voice of Aston, St Basil's, Groundwork Birmingham, Birmingham Drug Action Team, Birmingham Rathbone Society, Learning Curve and Saathi House.
Imprisoning 18 to 24 yearolds costs over £800 million each year, the report states.
However, the study also claims that most young adults will grow out of crime. The peak offending age for men is 18 and most will stop naturally by the age of 23.
For this reason, the report argues that treating younger offenders over the age of 18 as fully-mature adults fasttracks their criminal careers by exposing them to hardened criminals and cutting off access to support services.
Barrow Cadbury Trust director Sukhvinder Stubbs said: "The commission's report highlights the futility of the current system.
"Going forward, Barrow Cadbury will redirect its funding towards the commission's recommendations on community interventions to help fulfil young adults' potential and reduce offending."
The commission, which is made up of the chairman and a group of 12 commissioners who are experts in health, law, and the voluntary and private sectors, was established by the trust in summer, 2004.