Thameside prison criticised over violence and regime
A privately-run prison opened just 12 months ago has been criticised over levels of violence and its restricted regime.
Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said Thameside jail in south-east London was effectively in lock down for much of its first year.
The Howard League for Penal Reform said conditions were "truly alarming".
The National Offender Management Service said action had been taken to address the concerns.
Inspectors to the Greenwich prison found:
- Levels of assaults were "high" and "prisoners seemed to lack confidence in an inexperienced staff group to deal with violence"
- Use of force was reducing but remained "high"
- The prison's regime was "one of the most restricted inspectors had ever seen"
- 60% of prisoners were locked up during the working day and some spent 23 hours a day in their cells.
But, inspectors said they were pleased to find:
- Prisoners' reception into custody was "reasonable" and survey findings suggested prisoners felt safe
- Prisoners at risk of self-harm were reasonably "well cared for"
- The quality of accommodation throughout the prison was "excellent".
The Howard League for Penal Reform said the situation at Thameside undermined ministers' recent calls for prisoners to work harder when they were out of their cells to earn privileges.
Campaigns director Andrew Neilson said: "Thameside is doing nothing to help prisoners turn their lives around.
"Conditions at Thameside are truly alarming."'Much to be done'
Serco's custodial services director Wyn Jones said: "These are early days at the prison, and we accept completely the report's recommendations for future improvements.
"Among many areas of good practice across the prison identified by the report, we are especially pleased that it commended the extent to which prisoners feel safe in HMP Thameside."
"Much remains to be done, but this is a very positive start."
HMP Thameside is a category B establishment run by Serco Home Affairs and can currently hold 900 convicted and remand male prisoners.
It was opened along with G4S-run HMP Oakwood near Wolverhampton last year, creating about 2,500 prison places in total.