Almost a quarter of prisoners at HMP Winchester felt unsafe and well over half felt victimised. According to the latest report from the Prisons Inspectorate, there has been a ‘significant deterioration’ in the jail which holds some 486 men compared to its 2016 inspection. Incidents of self-harm had doubled since the last inspection with levels higher than any other local prison in the country. Seven prisoners had also taken their own lives, three in the previous 12 months.
The troubled prison featured in Channel Four’s Crime and Punishment series last year. Speaking at the launch of the series, governor James Bourke said that rehabilitation of criminals was a ‘fantasy’. Over the summer it was reported that 150 inmates were moved out of a wing following riots.
‘People quite understandably want to see people punished if they have caused harm in their lives. Unfortunately, everything else we have tried so far has not worked. Imprisonment works in the sense it does punish people. They arrive with me after years of (problems) with their family, their education, their social services system, their healthcare for a sentence of four or five weeks and I’m going to rehabilitate them? It’s a fantasy.’
James Bourke, HMP Winchester
According to the chief insector Peter Clarke, Winchester was ‘not safe enough’ but he stopped short of invoking the ‘urgent notification’ process which he said was best reserved for when there was ‘no other obvious or feasible solution’.
‘Arrangements to receive new prisoners were slightly improved but still not good enough with… only limited checks on new arrivals during their first night,’ Clarke wrote. ‘Violence… had increased markedly in the local prison, particularly against staff… . Almost a quarter of respondents to our survey said they felt unsafe, and well over half of all prisoners reported feeling victimised.’
Close to six out of 10 prisoners (59%) thought it was easy to obtain drugs in the prison. About a third of prisoners were locked up during the working day with those not at work or in education were typically out of cell for just 90 minutes.
Use of force had increased since the 2016 inspection which was explained by reference to the inexperience of their staff. ‘The segregation unit remained a dismal place, and we repeat our recommendation that it should be completely replaced,’ Clarke added.