Pentonville prison 'violent and crowded'

Pentonville Prison interior Image copyright PA
Image caption The north London prison holds 1,200 inmates

A prison which has seen an inmate allegedly murdered and two others escape in the last year is overcrowded and violent, a report has found.

There were 196 assaults on staff and prisoners in a six month period at HMP Pentonville.

The north London prison is also run-down, according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

The report follows an inspection in January and said progress had been made, but it was still not safe enough.

Jamal Mahmoud, 21, died after being stabbed in the prison on 18 October. Two men have been charged with murder.

Nearly three weeks later, two other inmates escaped. Both have been found.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The inspection was carried out in January and comes after the prison was the scene of an alleged murder

The report found:

  • Gang behaviour at the jail is "pervasive", while drug availability was high
  • There had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection
  • One in five prisoners were on anti-psychotic medication
  • The escape of two prisoners in November "had exposed some weaknesses in physical security" and prompted investment in anti-drone technology, new security netting, patrol dogs and a "long overdue" programme to install replacement cell windows.

It said measures had been taken to address disorder and limit the supply of drugs, as well as improve staff-prisoner relationships.

Pentonville Prison

  • A category B Victorian prison which opened in 1842
  • It holds more than 1,200 adult men
  • Located on Caledonian Road in Islington, north London
  • Notable former inmates include Oscar Wilde in 1895

Ch Insp of prisons Peter Clarke said: "It is clear that Pentonville remains an immensely challenging prison and that outcomes for prisoners remain, in many respects, not good enough.

"However, we were encouraged to see at this inspection a tangible sense of purpose and optimism among the governor and his senior management team, which were having a galvanising effect on the staff group as a whole."

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report illustrated the scale of the challenge and "the need for urgency to resolve the many problems in our failing prison system".

Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said: "Pentonville has been through a very challenging period and I'm pleased the Inspectorate have recognised progress has been made."

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