Inspectors have warned Winchester jail is ‘teetering on the edge of a major incident’ as a catalogue of failures were revealed.
The Independent Monitoring Board for the jail has accused the Ministry of Justice of ‘corporate failure’ over the prison.
They pointed to four deaths in custody, inadequate staffing levels, ‘dilapidated’ Victorian wings and a ‘dungeon-like’ care and separation unit as major problems.
Inquests had found failings in the four ‘deeply regrettable’ deaths, the report said.
The IMB report said there was ‘ineffective management of highly vulnerable prisoners’.
Healthcare was also criticised, with the IMB saying the NHS showed a ‘failure’ to have enough staff or consistent leadership, with ‘barely adequate service deliver’.
Prison officers have been leaving the jail after they did not receive a pay increase that staff at other jails received in February.
The report said: ‘Lack of staff has resulted in a steady deterioration of the environment and a noticeable rise in tension throughout the prison, characterised by an increase of self-harm, drug and tobacco use, assaults on officers and other prisoners, violent and disruptive behaviour.’
‘Given that HMP Winchester’s population includes young offenders, remand prisoners, ‘lifers’, prisoners on IEPs, and elderly prisoners, the situation is fragile and there is a prevailing sense that the prison is teetering on the edge of a major incident.’
And 17 people are assaulted a week on average in the jail, with seven assaults on staff and 10 on inmates.
‘A contributing factor in the early part of the year was prisoners’ access to illicit psychoactive substances,’ the report said.
In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said it is now introducing body-worn camera for staff.
A spokesman said: ‘HMP Winchester has taken immediate action to improve safety – introducing body-worn cameras, installing additional CCTV and recruiting extra staffing.
‘The Board have rightly recognised some improvements, following the appointment of a new governor, but there is much more to be done.
‘That is why the governor introduced changes to the regime in August which has resulted in a more stable environment for staff and prisoners.’
As reported, an inquest into the death of Daryl Hargrave, 22, found failings at the jail. He had been remanded into custody accused of a stabbing in Gosport.
He was found hanged in July 2015. The IMB report covers June 2016 to May 2017.