HM Prison Thameside
HM Prison Thameside first opened its doors in March 2012 as a new Category B prison for men located in Thamesmead, London. With an initial capacity of 900 prisoners, it was designed and constructed by Serco to replace some of the capacity lost at Brixton Prison after its closure.
In January 2013, just 10 months after opening, the Ministry of Justice announced a major expansion of Thameside with an additional houseblock constructed to increase capacity.
However, early inspections of the prison were critical of the high levels of violence and the restrictive regime in place at that time. A 2013 report found that 60% of prisoners were locked up for around 23 hours per day, while assaults and use of force by staff was also high.
The Prison Today
The regime in place at Thameside today has a strong focus on work, education, vocational training and rehabilitation programs for prisoners. It operates as a Category B local prison holding both convicted adult men and those on remand from courts in London.
With a Certified Normal Accommodation of 932, its Operational Capacity has now increased to house over 1,200 inmates.
Location and Layout
Thameside is situated in Thamesmead, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich in southeast London. It was constructed adjacent to HMP Belmarsh and HMP Isis.
The design and layout of the prison has been praised for the overall quality of accommodation. Facilities include educational centers, workshops, recreational areas and healthcare facilities across four main residential units.
Security and Operations
As a Category B prison, Thameside has a heightened level of security and runs a more restrictive regime than lower category jails. It is operated by the private outsourcing company Serco under contract from the Ministry of Justice.
With a population of over 1,200 convicted and remand prisoners, Thameside employs a substantial number of prison officers and support staff in its day-to-day operations.
Thameside holds adult men from courts across London who have either been convicted and sentenced to prison, or are being held on remand while awaiting trial or sentencing.
Its location makes it well-suited to take prisoners from inner-city courts including Brixton and surrounding areas after the closure of Brixton Prison.
A typical day for a prisoner at HMP Thameside involves structured time out of their cell to access work, education or training programs. The daily regime aims to keep prisoners constructively occupied rather than confined to their cells.
However, inmates have raised concerns about restrictions at certain times and staff shortages limiting time unlocked.
Rehabilitation and Training
A key focus of the regime at Thameside is on rehabilitation of prisoners through education and skills development. Vocational training courses, workshops and offender behaviour programmes aim to reduce reoffending on release.
Basic literacy and numeracy training are also provided, along with courses up to NVQ level in skills like construction, welding and industrial cleaning.
Inspections and Performance
While early inspections highlighted high levels of violence and very restrictive regimes, recent assessments have shown gradual improvements at Thameside. Inspectors acknowledged in 2017 that prisoner safety had improved, along with the provision of work and training.
However, use of force, violence and self-harm continue to be concerns. Ongoing progress will be monitored and measured in future inspections.
The main controversies surrounding Thameside have centered around high levels of violence and the limited time prisoners spend unlocked from their cells.
Restrictive regimes, staff shortages, poor staff culture and prisoner intimidation have all contributed to concerns over conditions for inmates.
However, with strong private sector involvement, the prison represents part of the wider debate around privatization policies for prisons in the UK.
HM Prison Thameside represents a modern, privately-run Category B prison for adult men from London and the surrounding areas. After early criticisms, recent signs show gradual improvements in safety, training and conditions for prisoners held there. But ongoing close monitoring will be needed to ensure progress continues in line with standards expected of a rehabilitation-focused prison.
What type of prison is Thameside?
Thameside is a Category B prison for adult men, with a focus on rehabilitation and training programmes for prisoners.
Who runs and operates Thameside Prison?
Thameside is privately operated by Serco under contract from the UK Ministry of Justice.
How many prisoners are held at Thameside?
The current capacity is over 1,200 prisoners, with an Operational Capacity of 1,232.
What facilities are provided for prisoners?
Thameside offers educational centers, workshops, recreational areas and healthcare facilities across four main residential units.
What concerns have been raised about conditions?
Early inspections found high levels of violence and very restricted regimes, with prisoners confined to cells for extensive periods.