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Thamesmead prison gang violence 'increased after riots'
VIOLENCE at a new prison for young offenders increased substantially following the influx of men from last August's riots, a report has found.
The independent monitoring board of Thamesmead's Isis prison, which houses more than 600 men aged from 18 to 25, also highlights a problem recruiting enough staff, with no human resources team locally and a "shameful" number of vacancies.
Problems with violence reached a peak in the second half of last year, the report said, much of it gang-related and involving men from the area.
It noted: "More serious incidents began to occur, some of which were severe with staff and offenders being injured, some seriously, and in a few cases, hospitalised."
These increased when older men were moved into the prison to make room in their original cells for young offenders involved in the August riots.
But the prison, which opened in 2010 near Belmarsh, was also praised for the educational and vocational opportunities it provides.
Board chair David Pinchin said: "It is early days but the signs are good.
"Local employers have been keen to offer opportunities to some of these young men and there is evidence that some of them have already turned their lives around."
He said: "It has been a tough first year for the prison as it quickly had to train inexperienced staff, some of whom had never worked in a prison before, and it quickly had to deal with unexpected arrivals and insufficient staff to deal with them.
"But, apart from a few serious incidents towards the end of the year, the establishment has remained safe and secure and is now beginning the long-term task of equipping the young men there with work skills so that, in conjunction with local employers, they can avoid a life of crime in the future."