A report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons has blamed inconsistent management for a catalogue of problems at Bristol Prison.
The prison has been recently downgraded to category B
The report highlighted problems with safety and race relations, and said inmates did not have enough structured activities to occupy their time.
Anne Owers said the prison had "lost its way", blaming the fact the jail had three different governors in two years.
Prison chiefs said a new management team was in place at Bristol.
The report found few jobs were available to inmates, with 60% unemployed yet statistics were disguising the true extent of the problem.
Over one-third of prisoners who took part in a survey said they had felt "unsafe" and there were poor systems for tackling bullying.
Young adults mixed with adult prisoners, including sex offenders, at the 600-inmate jail without any proper risk assessment, Ms Owers said.
However, the Horfield-based jail impressed the inspection team with its legal services and foreign nationals work.
Ms Owers said: "Bristol showed all the signs of its recent unsettled past and inconsistent management.
"It could best be described as a prison that had lost its way.
"Bristol needs to rediscover its role as an effective local community prison, providing a safe environment and offering prisoners the opportunities they need."
Prison Service director general Phil Wheatley said: "With the new management team in place the prison already has a renewed sense of direction.
"A full review has been commissioned to look into the amount and quality of activity available for prisoners at Bristol with a view to introducing more work places where possible."
Ms Owers added: "In this day and age we really can't have a situation where 60 per cent of prisoners have nothing to do.
"I don't think there's any reason why Bristol can't turn around, it just needs some focussed attention at the moment."