Holloway Prison 'extremely difficult to run safely'
Holloway Prison is "extremely difficult to run safely", with about 60% of inmates feeling unsafe at some point, inspectors have said.
One inmate described the UK's largest women's jail in north London as "a very scary place for a first-time prisoner".
Intimidation is rife and staff are hampered by the poor design of the prison.
There were also reports of inappropriate behaviour by male prison officers, the inspectors found.
The prison's design, which was intended to produce an atmosphere more like a hospital than a prison, was recognised as a failure in the 1980s as its lack of traditional wings or landings, and a maze of corridors, means warders have difficulty monitoring inmates'.
'Unsafe and unsatisfactory'
Nigel Newcomen, deputy chief inspector of prisons, said: "Holloway remains an extremely difficult prison to run safely and effectively."
Managers and staff were hampered by the "unsafe and unsatisfactory design of the prison" and "the lack of strategic direction and effective operational management within the women's prison system in general", he said.
"Unless both are confronted and dealt with, Holloway will continue to drain its managers and struggle to meet the needs of the women it holds."
Inspectors found 57% of women said they had felt unsafe in the prison, with bullying consistently raised as a concern, limited intervention by staff, and inmates having little confidence that these issues would be dealt with effectively if reported.
Some inmates "reported unwanted attention from male staff", including concerns about "male night staff observing them through hatches", the inspectors said.
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), said: "Holloway presents a challenging physical environment, but staff work extremely hard to provide as extensive a regime as possible."
A total of 220 recommendations for improvement were made after the full unannounced inspection of the prison, which holds about 450 women, in April.