Gang violence ‘out of control’ in Feltham prison

Security cameras captured premeditated attacks in the young offenders’ institution - with nearly two recorded every day

The country’s most violent children’s prison is in need of urgent reform,  according to a damning report which reveals that gang members are able to openly attack rivals without fears of criminal sanction.

Security cameras captured premeditated gang violence in Feltham young offenders’ institution with nearly two attacks recorded every day. The report into Feltham – which is split into two separate prisons, one for under-18s and the other for young adults – is just the latest to have raised concerns over the high level of violence at prisons for young people.

The authorities have begun an  investigation after inspectors found that warders at Feltham B, for inmates aged 18 to 21, used batons significantly more times than at any other prison.

The Prisons Inspectorate found that gang markings were daubed inside cells and prison officers were forced to move groups around the west London prison to try to prevent  disputes escalating.

“It was a very disturbing place,” chief prisons inspector Nick Hardwick told The Independent. “If you were a parent with a child in Feltham you would be right to be terrified. It  would be very hard not to join a  gang in Feltham.”

Feltham was named by the Howard League for Penal Reform as the most violent prison in England and Wales, with two other young offenders’ prisons taking the next two places. The problems at Feltham are particularly acute as it is the receiving centre for all children and young adult offenders from the capital. Scotland Yard has made tackling gangs a priority, but its focus has meant that some of those disputes are transferred from the streets to the prison system.

“All the gangs in London meet in Feltham,” said Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service. “There are fewer young people in prisons but the ones who are there are troubled, difficult and challenging.”

Security camera footage showed that prison officers put themselves in harm’s way to break up fights and the inspection report found their actions were proportionate and necessary.

But the report found that 300 acts of violence had been recorded in the children’s prison in the six months before the inspection. Some of these were “very serious” showing groups kicking and punching each other in clear view of staff. However, senior prison staff said that cases of “extreme violence” were no longer referred to the police because they were reluctant to pursue them.

Mr Hardwick said he was concerned that punishment for rule-breaking meant that some teenagers were confined in their cells for 22 hours and “came out punching”. He said that education and rehabilitation work was hampered because inmates were in fear of attack.

From the autumn, prison authorities will spread young adult offenders on remand around other prisons in the capital to prevent the clustering of gang members in Feltham.

But the Howard League called for more community sentences for those serving time in Feltham. Director of campaigns Andrew Neilson said: “This is the worst inspection report of its kind we have seen in a decade. If you want to see the effects of keeping hundreds of troubled boys cooped up in a prison, you need look no further than Feltham.”

The government has begun a consultation into youth detention to focus more on education and training.

CCTV captures ‘shocking’ attack

The organised ferocity of gang violence inside Feltham was revealed with a brutal attack on a young inmate captured by security cameras.

In scenes described as “jaw-dropping” by Chief Inspector Nick Hardwick, two boys started a mock fight to divert the attention of warders before a mob suddenly launched an attack on the teenager who was watching television on his own.

Unable to fight back, the boy curled himself up in a ball on the floor as the group jumped up and down on his prone body, according to the footage seen by inspectors.

One of the attackers tore off his shirt to make it more difficult for him to be grabbed by guards as he carried out the attack.

Staff said they believed the attack was a gang initiation ritual. “What was really disturbing was this group’s lack of concern about the consequences for the victim and the lack of concern for themselves,” said Mr Hardwick. “This wasn’t a hidden assault around a corner, this was in full view of staff. It was very shocking to watch.”

Staff at the prison had become adept at moving groups around the facility to ensure that rival groups were kept apart.

Paul Peachey

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map