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A previous report in 2019 found HMP Pentonville was “violent” and crimes were driven by “drugs and gangs”

Violence has continued to rise at one of the country’s oldest and busiest jails, a watchdog has warned.

Chief prisons inspector Peter Clarke said levels of violence had risen by 10% at HMP Pentonville and assaults on staff were up 30% since 2019.

It is one of two London jails put into the equivalent of special measures over concerns about violence and drugs last month.

The MOJ said a new governor had been appointed to help with improvements.

Managers understood that “boredom and inactivity contributed to bad behaviour, violence and poor well-being”, according to a HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) report)

Despite this, “prisoners still spent far too long locked in their cells during the working day”, it said.

Since March 2015, 20 men have died at HMP Pentonville, 13 by suicide.

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The HMIP warned of a “lacklustre” approach to suicides in the jail

Mr Clarke warned of a “lacklustre” approach to suicides in the jail.

But he said good progress had been made in tackling the prison’s “significant drug problem”.

‘Poorest progress’

In August, Mr Clarke said violence fuelled by gangs, drugs, debt and “volatile young prisoners” had increased “markedly” at Pentonville.

Volunteers appointed by justice ministers to scrutinise prison conditions claimed Government neglect “directly contributed” to an “alarming rise” in violence and drugs at the jail.

An independent review of progress (IRP) took place in February to follow up on key concerns raised in last year’s inspection.

But inspectors described the Category B prison as making the “poorest progress” compared to any other IRP since the process was introduced in April.

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The Ministry of Justice said an X-ray style security system will help reduce drug smuggling at the 19th Century prison

Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer said: “We’ve taken immediate action to improve HMP Pentonville by appointing a new governor and giving the prison intensive support through our new performance programme.

“I am confident this will stabilise the prison through additional staff, enhanced training and X-ray style security to reduce the illicit drugs which drive violence.”

Both HMP Pentonville and young offenders’ institution Feltham A were last month placed in the Government’s new Prison Performance Support Programme (PPSP).

Inspectors are due to review Pentonville’s conditions again in November.

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