Inspectors have reported ‘no meaningful progress’ at ‘one of the most violent prisons in the country’ since their last inspection in 2019. HMP Winchester, a category B prison in Hampshire holding 492 prisoners at the time of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ visit, has long been identified as a troubled prison – see here. According to Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons: ‘There was no meaningful strategy to understand and address the causes of violence within the main population’.
The inspection report finds that the prison continued to deliver poor outcomes for prisoners in the main category B site. The numbers of assaults on staff and prisoners were higher than in similar prisons and there was ‘little routine investigation of violent incidents’. Most prisoners were locked in their cells for 22.5 hours a day and there was a lack of provision of purposeful activity.
‘Living conditions were far worse than in similar prisons and, in many areas, worse than at the time of the last inspection,’ inspectors noted. ‘Prisoners complained to inspectors that they had nowhere to store possessions safely. Locked in their cells for most of the day, they had to eat their meals next to dirty, uncovered, and unscreened toilets.’
The prison featured in Channel Four’s Crime and Punishment series in 2018. Speaking at the launch of the series, governor James Bourke said that rehabilitation of criminals was a ‘fantasy’. At the time 150 inmates had been moved out of a wing following riots. Last year the Independent Monitoring Board reported that two-thirds of prisoners released from Winchester were categorised as being of ‘no fixed abode’ and half as homeless. The IMB found that the prison been lifted out of special measures but continued to experience the highest level of violence in its comparator group and the second highest for prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.
‘There is no doubt that the pandemic has limited some of the progress at Winchester, but leaders have failed to show enough real, sustained grip,’ Taylor said this week. ‘If it is to improve from this disappointing inspection, the prison will need leaders to be active and visible on the wings, and set clear, measurable targets for improvement so that prisoners are safer, kept in decent conditions and given enough to do during the day.’