London prison HMP Thameside remains “a challenge” but has made improvements, according to a prison inspection report. The inspection was unannounced.
The prison, which opened in 2012, is notorious for gang violence and prisoners continuing their street battles on the inside.
Things had become so bad there was a “near lockdown” inside, meaning prisoners spent most of each day confined in their cells.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick reported that conditions had improved from 20 months ago and their was less violence. There are 148 gang members inside and half are considered young offenders.
The report said Thameside was working to change: "Although levels of violence remain high the prison is undertaking useful initiatives including work to tackle gang affiliations.”
It noted, however, that prison remained extremely dangerous: “The use of force and the number of disciplinary investigations was high and had increased, reflecting the significant number of violent incidents.”
Despite this, the percentage of violent incidents involving gang members has dropped from 60 per cent to just over three per cent.
Director of the prison John Biggin said “Of course there are still incidents but there has been a huge improvement. This is a very difficult group of people in this prison. There are a lot of people in gangs and those involved with drugs. It is also a remand prison so there is a big turnover. We are proud out the achievements but aim to be a model prison where respect for all concerned is the key.”