LATCHMERE Prison in Ham is the best in the country at providing useful work for its inmates.

That is the verdict of the Prison Service annual report published this week.

Prisons in London are delivering the best performance in the country for staff race equality, according to new figures published by the Prison Service.

The latest regional performance results, measured against key performance indicators, show that every prison in London achieved its target for staff race equality, with the majority coming in well above target.

London prisons also performed well in terms of delivering educational qualifications.

However, population pressures, particularly at the city's busy local prisons, affected performance across London against targets for Mandatory Drug Tests (MDT), purposeful activity and the level of serious assaults.

HMP Latchmere House, London's semi-open prison, delivered the best results nationwide for purposeful activity, with an average 57.6 hours per prisoner per week.

It also came in well above target for staff race equality and for some educational qualifications, although it missed targets for MDT rates and for resettlement.

Keith Munns, Prison Service area manager for London, said: "It is no mean achievement for London prisons to make up the top five in the country in terms of race equality among staff, and it reflects well upon the changes that have been in evidence in the Prison Service in recent years and that make us a much more diverse organisation.

"I am also pleased with our efforts in giving prisoners the opportunity to gain practical educational qualifications that will make them more valuable members of society in future. But we acknowledge concerns about the effects that population pressures have on the ability of prisons to deliver effective regimes in other respects, particularly in the city's local prisons that have a high throughput of prisoners.

"We are constantly looking at the issue of drug supply into our local prisons and have a local area drug strategy in place to address this, which builds on community partnerships. We are examining the levels of purposeful activity in each prison, and hope to do more to provide prisoners with appropriate skills to help them to obtain employment when they return to society."