Fiona Simpson writes in CYP NOW that as many as 40 young offenders may be granted temporary release from young offender institutions and secure training centres due to the coronavirus pandemic.

CYP Now understands that young offenders are set to make up one per cent of the 4,000 prisoners eligible for the Ministry of Justice’s temporary release scheme.

As many as 40 children and young people, who are classed as low-risk prisoners and are “within weeks” of their release date could be let out on licence to avoid the spread of the disease, known as Covid-19, across the youth custody estate.

While 40 children are understood to be eligible for release they will be individually assessed based on their housing and support needs by the Youth Custody Service (YCS) and youth offending teams (YOTs).

A YCS spokesperson said: “We are working with local youth offending teams to identify and support children who are eligible for the temporary release scheme.

“Action has also been taken to ensure social distancing is in place across the youth estate, in line with Public Health England guidance, while maintaining essential activities, family contact and time in the fresh air.

“We are supporting more in-room activities such as workouts and have provided children with additional phone credits so they can stay in contact with their families.”

Government guidance states that prisoners who leave the secure estate as part of the temporary release scheme will be tagged using GPS tags and temporarily released on licence in stages.

“Offenders can be recalled at the first sign of concern,” it adds, stating: “Violent and sexual offenders and those of security concern will not be considered.”

This means more than half of around 800 children currently in custody will not be eligible for the scheme due to having committed violent offences.

Around 30 per cent of young offenders are in custody on remand, meaning they must be granted bail by the courts. This can be applied for by YOTs, which outline how they could support a child in the community.

The MOJ has insisted that “no child will be released without suitable housing and support being in place”.

The move comes after charity Just for Kid’s Law called on the government to limit the number of children arrested and suspend overnight detention in police custody for young people during the coronavirus pandemic.

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