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Scathing report about new Thamesmead prison

PUBLISHED: 17:06 24 January 2012

Nick Hardwick

Nick Hardwick

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Unconfident and demotivated staff at a new prison for men aged 18 to 25 has led to officers using force too quickly and prisoners being frightened to leave their cells.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons report published last Thursday (19) into its first inspection of Isis in Western Way, Thamesmead, said this was a result of inexperienced new recruits who lacked confidence and detached duty staff drafted in from other prisons.

Chief Inspector Nick Hardwick wrote: “At times the inspection team was overwhelmed by prisoners who wanted to complain about their treatment by staff and officers’ unwillingness or inability to help with simple, everyday problems. The weak relationships meant that officers fell back on formal disciplinary action or resorted to force too quickly.

“Overall, too many staff appeared to lack the confidence or motivation to deliver their responsibilities effectively.”

It concluded that the prison which opened in July 2010, had made progress but still had a long way to go, especially after an influx of prisoners following the August riots.

The report reads: “Work on diversity was very limited. We were not satisfied that complaints of racist attitudes or behaviour were effectively investigated and we found evidence that work opportunities were not allocated fairly. The needs of prisoners with disabilities were not met and many foreign national prisoners told us they felt frightened and isolated. We agreed with prisoners that the quality of food was poor and quantities were often insufficient. Prisoners had to wait up to six months to get their possessions from the store; this formed the largest source of complaints.

“A new health team with a large number of vacancies was not yet fully effective. Attendance at clinics was low and little action was taken to address this. Resources to meet prisoners with mental health needs were inadequate.”

Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Michael Spurr, said: “Recruitment at Isis has posed a challenge but new staff are being absorbed well and are working hard to manage the volatile population.

“I am pleased that the Inspector praised the resettlement work being undertaken and acknowledged the low drug use. The Governor and staff are working hard to establish a positive culture and are committed to creating a safe and secure environment.”

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