Influence from gangs and the use of weapons have all been flagged as concerns in the Home Office annual report on Belmarsh prison.
Every prison is required to be monitored by an independent board appointed by the Secretary of State from members of the community in which the prison is situated.
HMP Belmarsh, in Woolwich, was opened in 1991 at a cost of £105m and has not come out of an inspection favourably, which details an increase in prison gangs and violence towards staff.
One section of the report details the state of the prisoners’ living conditions.
The report says: “The continued use of three-man cells designed for two people is unacceptable.
“It is of great concern that no progress has been made on reducing the occupancy back to two-man cells. The Governor is also unhappy about the situation.”
The segregation unit is said to be in a generally good condition, however, due to the damage created by the prisoners, this is reducing the amount of available accommodation.
The report continues: “The area outside the cell windows is always covered with litter, which cannot be kept under control despite the efforts of cleaners.
It has also been reported that there have been four dirty protests during this year.
The Independent Monitoring Board said that there has been in increase in the amount of gangs within the prison, which is now being classed as a ‘major concern’.
This is also resulting in more violence and aggression towards not just other prisoners but staff members too.
There are nearly 900 prisoners currently held in Belmarsh, and authorities have identified 120 gangs, with a high number of prisoners declaring an affiliation to these gangs.
The report says: “The prison works hard to separate prisoners who claim to be in conflict, which is in turn increasing problems for the Governor and his staff.”
An outcome is that more prisoners are choosing to self-isolate.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “As a Category A prison, staff at HMP Belmarsh naturally have a very complex set of prisoners to manage but they are working with gang experts to help offenders turn their backs on these criminal allegiances. We’re also boosting security with our £100 million investment to crack down on crime behind bars – using new technology like body scanners and mobile phone-blockers. The £2.5 billion we are spending on prisons will ensure we have 10,000 new, modern places to increase capacity in the estate.”