HMIP Inspection of Thameside

The prison was given an inspection in November 2021, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

“Thameside is a modern category B local prison in south-east London that contained 1,194 prisoners at the time of our inspection. Around 60% of those held were on remand or unsentenced and almost a quarter were category C prisoners who were often at the end of their sentence and preparing for release.

The prison had been too slow to increase the amount of time that prisoners were unlocked, with those in the induction and drugs wing spending little more than half an hour a day out of their cells. Remand prisoners were locked up for up to 23.5 hours a day with very few activities on offer; this was particularly concerning for the 60 prisoners who had been on remand for more than a year. A COVID-19 outbreak that occurred just as the prison was entering stage two of the HMPPS five stage recovery framework meant that restrictions could not be lifted, but since then leaders should have done more to open up the regime and increase what was on offer for prisoners.

Offender management unit (OMU) staff were doing some excellent work in the prison – they proactively contacted prisoners, were a visible presence on the wings and provided good support. This was the best provision I had seen during the last year and, because the prison had outsourced offender management work to Catch 22, staff were not cross deployed to other duties as we so often see in jails. Despite this, the reunification of probation services had badly affected the large remand population, as essential support with housing, benefits and managing debt (that was previously provided by community rehabilitation companies) was removed overnight.

At our last inspection we had been critical of the segregation unit and we were pleased to see that it was now much improved. Usage had fallen and those who were there had a more predictable regime and were encouraged back into the prison by a caring and well-led staff team. Segregated prisoners were supported by a strong psychology team who offered guidance and helped to create support packages. This service provided all segregation unit staff with regular, one-to-one meetings to talk about the challenges with dealing with this complex and often violent group of prisoners. Other prisons would do well to emulate and learn from this practice.

Leaders had focused on improving the use and quality of body-worn cameras to record use of force incidents and it was pleasing to see that the uptake had increased significantly in response. This is an issue that we frequently raise in our inspections and it was good to see it being addressed at Thameside.

Education at the jail had only recently restarted and could accommodate six prisoners per classroom, but in roll-checks during the inspection there were, on average, fewer than three prisoners in each lesson. Lessons were inexplicably long at three hours, and only prisoners who had been allocated their education in the morning were allowed to attend in the afternoon. This meant only a tiny proportion of the population was being taught. Education was rated inadequate by Ofsted. The education provider and prison leaders needed to apply some real grip and ambition, getting many more prisoners into education and training.

There was some impressive, innovative work to incentivise better behaviour from younger prisoners and rather than separating members of different gangs, the prison was working to improve relationships and keep them living together. The strong and experienced governor, supported by some effective functional heads of department, had a clear set of priorities for the future. Inspectors were impressed to see leaders challenging some poor staff practice and disciplining or dismissing those who had seriously breached the rules. While the governor had been able to put in place some incentives, the prison’s biggest, ongoing challenge will remain recruiting and retaining enough high quality staff so that it can expand the regime and make sure that prisoners, particularly those on remand, are given opportunities for education and training.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
January 2022

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To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • Inspection report (919 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Thameside by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (8-9 and 15-19 November 2021)
  • HMP Thameside (581.84 kB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Thameside (2–3, 8–12 May 2017)
  • HMP Thameside
  • Report on an announced inspection of HMP Thameside (1 – 5 September 2014)
  • HMP Thameside
  • Unannounced inspection of HMP Thameside (14–17 January 2013)

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