PRISONERS at the county’s biggest jail are being left to fester in ‘unacceptable’ and ‘squalid’ conditions, a damning report has revealed.
Despite the efforts of staff at Winchester Prison, monitors from the jail’s independent watchdog have said prisoners are not always being treated humanely or fairly.
In the Independent Monitoring Board’s (IMB) latest annual report, a shortage of staff had led to an increase in drugs being smuggled into the establishment.
The IMB said a lack of experienced staff and under-funding had led to a ‘very restrictive regime’,with prisoners often being locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, with disabled inmates unable to access basic facilities.
Inmates felt ‘hopeless’ and ‘frustrated’ by the conditions, which led to bed behaviour, drug abuse, violence and self-harm – with 225 incidents being reported between January and May alone.
The restricted regime prevented convicts from having enough time to shower, exercise, make phone calls or clean their surroundings.
Angus Somerville, IMB chairman said: ‘Winchester is little more than an establishment which fulfils the function of ‘warehousing’ prisoners, but we feel that much of what is wrong with the prison comes down to a lack of funding and resources.
‘This means that the good work we do see happening in Winchester is patchy. While the total number of uniformed staff has risen during the period, there is no substitute for experience, yet in May this year, 45-60 per cent of uniformed officers on the wings had less than one year’s experience in their grade.
‘This, coupled with the dire state of the prison’s fabric, the frustration of prisoners and prevalence of drugs, creates a highly stressful atmosphere for everyone and makes progress extremely difficult to achieve.’
Monitors, who visit the prison four or five days each week, say that – although the prison was placed in Special Measures in January this year due to safety concerns, culture and leadership – it is hard to see any significant improvement given staff shortages, lack of resources and the high level of prisoner and staff turnover.
Winchester has up to 690 category B and C prisoners as well as men on remand, 45 young offenders, and a number vulnerable inmates and sex offenders.