Probation services responsible for supervising thousands of offenders are failing to meet them often enough, a report has warned.
Enforcement of non-custodial sentences by private community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) was found to be “poor” by inspectors.
They found cases where assessments had been carried out even though the officer had not met the individual they were responsible for.
The report from HM Inspectorate of Probation examined authorities’ handling of criminals sentenced to community orders or suspended prison terms.
Around 120,000 offenders on probation supervision are subject to these types of sentences.
Community orders may include requirements to undertake rehabilitative activity such as drug treatment, or to comply with restrictions such as electronic monitoring.
The same applies to a suspended sentence order, where the court imposes a custodial term but may choose to suspend it for up to two years.
Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: “Good enforcement relies on good quality probation supervision.
“CRCs focused on contract compliance, but not seeing people often enough, or not engaging meaningfully with them, are inevitably behind the curve on enforcement, as staff may not know when enforcement is called for, or when purposeful work to re-engage the individual would be better for them and for society.”
She warned that poor supervision “is more likely to lead to reoffending”.
The findings are the latest to shine a light on the system for managing offenders in England and Wales after a controversial shake-up.
Known as Transforming Rehabilitation, the partial privatisation launched in 2014 saw the creation of the National Probation Service (NPS) to deal with high-risk cases, while remaining work was assigned to 21 CRCs.
In a report last year, the Inspectorate revealed thousands of offenders living in the community were being managed by a brief phone call every few weeks under “remote supervision” arrangements.
In the latest review, inspectors also looked at cases of recall to prison because of breaches of licence conditions.
They found that almost all recalls by the NPS and CRCs were “good decisions”.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We are pleased the Inspectorate has found that probation providers are taking the right decisions to recall offenders to prison where necessary and keep the public protected.
“We also welcome the Inspectorate’s conclusion that the NPS, who supervise higher-risk offenders, are doing a good job to enforce sentences.
“However it is clear that CRCs must make improvements in this area, and we have already taken action, setting up an enforcement working group to bring providers together and drive forward necessary improvements.
“We will continue to monitor CRCs’ performance and will work closely to ensure they meet the high standards of probation services we expect.”