The report, How Young People Cope With Release, highlights a number of problems young people suffer when they transition to life after custody, including anxious paranoia, agoraphobia and physical tiredness.
A majority of young offenders studied by Professor Neal Hazel and Dr Tim Bateman, criminologists at the University of Salford and University of Bedford respectively, found that the period in the early days to weeks following release can be "overwhelmingly stressful", with some feeling disorientated by their attempts to adjust to life in the community.
The research found that release can put some young people under such pressure that rather than confront problems they try and find a way to get sent back to custody. As one young person interviewed for the study said: "Sometimes people think, what can I do to commit a crime to go back where it’s more easy?”
Young people highlighted the need for more time to be given in young offending institutions to prepare for the challenges of release, and better post-release support by youth offending teams (YOTs) as ways to smooth the transition from custody.
The report also calls for release on temporary licence to be used more widely in an effort to cut reoffending rates.
In terms of post-custody, it recommends a structured timetable be put in place for the initial period after release and consideration given to practical support, such as new clothes, to reduce the risk of trauma.
Bateman said: “The period of transition from custody to the community provides a window of opportunity when young people are enthusiastic to change.
“However, this is impeded by a lack of sufficient, relevant and timely support, leading to disillusionment and a return to offending. In particular, plans for suitable accommodation and education, training or employment is often not established by the time of release.”
Responding to the report, Penelope Gibbs, chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said: “It is crucial that resettlement for children leaving custody should be improved. Resettlement is a vital part of reducing the chances of children reoffending when they leave custody – which around 70 per cent do.
“But too often resettlement goes wrong and does not provide children with the support they need. Many children seldom leave the confines of their prison during their sentence. So inevitably the transition back to the community is difficult. We need those imprisoned kept nearer their homes and allowed out regularly.
“YOTs need to be properly financed to support children who are released and all local authority services, including housing, should work together to create a stable home for them to come back to.”