Winchester prison remains 'one of Britain's most violent' as damning inspection reveals inmates eat food next to filthy toilets

INMATES locked in one of Britain’s ‘most violent prisons’ are forced to eat their food next to dirty toilets, a damning inspection has found.

By Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 2:33 pm

Inspectors to HMP Winchester, a category B men’s prison with a separate category C unit, said the jail continued ‘to be one of the most violent prisons in the country’.

During a surprise trip to the jail in February, monitors blasted leadership at Winchester for allowing violence to fester and failing to implement some 29 recommendations made after a 2019 inspection.

There was little routine investigation of violent incidents. Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, said: ‘There was no meaningful strategy to understand and address the causes of violence within the main population.’

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Inspectors also condemned the culture of locking inmates away with no work to keep the occupied or aid their rehabilitation.

A damning report into conditions found that many of the 492 inmates were locked in the cells for 22.5 hours a day, and even more at weekends.

Too many prisoners were unemployed, or not allocated to any activity. Across both sites, inspectors saw prisoners routinely sleeping their days away, jobless and demotivated.

Living conditions were far worse than in similar prisons and, in many areas, worse than at the time of the last inspection, the report said.

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.

A ‘decency policy’ had recently been introduced but there was little evidence of improvement as a result, inspectors added.

Meanwhile, a prison survey found 39 per cent of inmates questioned claimed it was easy to get illegal drugs and that the desire for them among inmates increased due to a ‘severely restricted regime, boredom and a lack of optimism that things would improve’.

Mr Taylor added: ‘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.

‘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.’