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Anti-gangs police could be posted inside prison

Plans in early stages could involve placing Trident officers inside facility where "reckless" violence has flared

Specialised anti-gangs police could work inside a prison where fighting between inmates has become a serious problem.

Feltham Prison houses teenagers representing dozens of rival street gangs - and a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons yesterday (January 13) warned of "unpredictable and reckless" violence between inmates.

Concern about the prison, commonly known as Feltham Young Offenders Institution, was also raised by London Assembly politicians, who quizzed Lisa Harvey-Messina from the Youth Justice Board earlier this month.

"We are in the process of potentially looking at having police officers working in Feltham at the moment to try and bring some of the levels of serious youth violence in there down," Ms Harvey-Messina told them.

She added: "So they [the inmates] are not offending on the streets, they are offending in custody against each other. You might not see that in terms of [reported crime] rates. "

The plans, understood to be in the very early stages, would mirror initiatives run in HM Prison Isis in Woolwich.

There, officers from the Metropolitan Police's Trident Gang Crime Command already take part in initiatives around resettlement of offenders on release.

In the past Met officers have been posted to HMP Isis as part of successful pilot schemes aimed at reducing youth violence among inmates and sharing knowledge.

Union the Prison Officers' Association has claimed Feltham is being run "on a wing and a prayer".

Gang affiliations

At the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee meeting Ms Harvey-Messina said the rate of reoffending for young people coming out of custody was "still extremely high".

She added: "Those young people who now go into, let's say Feltham, are those young people who are the most damaged, the most violent, the most disenfranchised from society - and they are definitely the ones that are going to be at most risk of reoffending.

"So it's going to be always very difficult to influence those young people."

Dr Tim Bateman from the University of Bedfordshire said a "substantial reduction" in resources for youth offending teams and their partners "has inevitably put some stress and strain on the system".

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service, conceded that many young people at Feltham had "strong gang affiliations":

He added: "There is no easy answer to the challenges presented by the young men in Feltham but we are committed to working positively with our partners in the youth justice board and in the wider community to reduce violence, prevent victims and support effective rehabilitation."