Youth workers are having to pass notes under locked cell doors to help jailed teenagers prepare for release because of the need to keep violent inmates apart, a watchdog says.
In other cases they can contact youngsters about their future only by talking through flaps in cell doors.
The length to which some members of youth offending teams have to go is disclosed in a report on resettlement, published today, which says that young offender institutions are largely failing to prepare teenage inmates to lead safe and law-abiding lives on their release.
In one case an 18-year-old boy assessed as posing a high risk of harm to others and a risk of sexual exploitation to girls was given a travel warrant and expected to find his own way to report to his youth offending team. The youth, who was not receiving benefits and had no bank account, was told that he would then be transported to a hostel and referred to a food bank. He later failed to attend a meeting with a probation officer, the report said.
There are about 900 youths aged 15 to 18 in young offender institutions in England and Wales, down from 3,000 a decade ago. Seventy per cent of those who served a sentence of less than 12 months and 57 per cent of those serving 12 months or more reoffended within a year of release.
Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, and Justin Russell, chief inspector of probation, said: “We found that while children were in custody there was not enough productive resettlement work; this had detrimental consequences for them when they were released. The most damaging outcome was a lack of suitable accommodation identified in time for other services to be in place.”
In the first three months of this year almost 14 per cent of children coming to the end of their time in custody did not know where they would be living ten days before they were due to be freed.
The joint inspection report said: “In Wetherby and Feltham, the regime restricted contact with the children, which meant that case managers had to have conversations through door flaps, or when confidentiality was necessary, pass notes under the cell doors.”
The Times disclosed this week that inmates were attacking officers as a “mark of honour” at Feltham A, west London.
The Ministry of Justice said that it was only in exceptional circumstances that case workers were unable to have face to face contact with offenders.