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  • 'Postcode' gang rivalries an enormous problem for Feltham youth jail, says watchdog

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  • “Postcode rivalries” are such a serious problem in a youth jail that some inmates say they would have to attack other gang members even if they did not know them. Feltham Young Offenders Institution has an “enormous problem” with tensions from the outside world continuing inside the prison, according to a watchdog.  Many doing time at Feltham say they would not feel safe in the same unit or classes as those from other gangs, said the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB). Its annual report states that some inmates say “gang-related loyalties are so great that they would not be able to stop themselves assaulting members from a rival gang, whether they know them or not”. Staff also reported cases of inmates having to attack people from rival gangs to write off gambling debts – even if there was no obvious quarrel with that person.  Violent behaviour takes place almost every day in every part of the west London institution near Heathrow Airport, the monitoring board said.  Its report said managing gang members “presents an enormous problem for the prison as ‘postcode’ gang allegiances and enmities change very frequently”.  Feltham has two parts: one with room for 180 teenagers aged 15 to 18, the other for 360 adults aged 18 to 21. It received a bad report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in 2017, which criticised high levels of violence and said many inmates were locked up for too much of the day. In March 2018, the inspectorate said there “had been excellent progress” and noted a significant fall in violence. The Independent Monitoring Board’s report covers the year to October 2018; its members are unpaid members of the public who make an average of three to four visits per month. IMB chairwoman Caroline Langton said: “We have raised a number of serious issues for the governor, the Prison Service and ministers to address; however we recognise the hard work of staff throughout another difficult year for the prison. “The board commends them all for their dedication and professionalism in caring for some of the country’s most complex young men.” A Youth Custody Service spokeswoman said: “The safety and welfare of every young person at Feltham is the governor’s top priority and while there are significant challenges, progress is being made. “Feltham has increased its staff numbers and has a dedicated unit to support the most vulnerable children to ensure they feel safe and supported.”

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