Prison guards are sending thank you letters to inmates who behave well in an attempt to reverse rising levels of violence in a London jail, an official report revealed today.
Men detained in Isis prison in south-east London are also being given “reward slips” to encourage positive attitudes during their incarceration.
The prison houses around 600 men and was highlighted as one of the top 10 most challenging institutions by prisons minister Rory Stewart in August. He said that if his £10 million scheme to tackle drugs, security and leadership in the prisons did not meet targets within a year, he would resign.
Mr Clarke’s findings, which cover before the scheme was announced, highlight the scale of the task ahead. He warns that the jail has made limited progress in the last two years and continues to have high levels of violence, with 163 incidents recorded in the six months before the inspection.
Mr Clarke’s report also complains that prison staff use force against inmates too often and criticises their frequent failure to turn on their body-worn cameras during such encounters.
Despite these failings, he says there is an “encouraging change of direction” in the prison with an “improving culture and atmosphere” and well-run efforts to control gangs and organised crime groups at the prison.
There is also a good success rate in drug searches, although the number of inmates testing positive for illicit substances remains “high”. He also commends “promising initiatives” to encourage better behaviour in the jail.
Mr Clarke says that many of these schemes were still not properly established or well implemented, but praises the use of incentives as a way forward.
He added that the prison governor, Emily Thomas, had “prioritised getting the basics right” in leadership and building “a more positive culture”.
Mr Stewart said the report showed the prison “still faces many challenges” but that it was “turning a corner” due to the governor and staff.