HMP Winchester Still Unsatisfactory Despite Extra Staff & Funding

The 2018/19 Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) Annual Report for HMP Winchester is published today. The independent monitors say that, despite progress since their highly critical report last year, the prison’s performance is still unsatisfactory in a number of areas.

In its 2018/19 annual report (PDF) released today, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) notes that, in the year to 31 May 2019, the prison remains at serious risk from the continued availability of drugs and contraband, very high levels of self-harm and buildings that are not fit for purpose.

Safety has been compromised by regular instances of violence by prisoners, requiring the use of force by staff (averaging between 40-60 interventions each month), which reflects the fragile nature of the jail.

In parallel, the efficiency of education provision, the scope for effective rehabilitation and the take-up of purposeful activity has been lower than required.

These challenges persist in spite of improvements in the prison’s operation and treatment of prisoners. Extra resources, provided as a consequence of the prison being in Special Measures, have had a positive impact – particularly in the last four months. A large influx of new, albeit inexperienced, prison officers have enabled a better daily regime to be run, more positive interaction with prisoners, and a generally less tense atmosphere than previously.

In its Annual Report, the IMB at HMP/YOI Winchester notes:

  • Prisoners are still locked behind their cell doors for too long and an inconsistent operating regime has impeded the delivery of education and purposeful activity to the maximum number of prisoners. Short sentences and a high turnover of prisoners make effective preparation for release almost impossible to achieve.
  • Efforts have been made to improve the worn environment. However, the effect is more superficial than substantial, as evidenced by the continued delay to the replacement of the subterranean Care and Separation Unit and the recent break-out of prisoners through their cell walls onto the wing landing. Disabled access is still variable.
  • Self-harm and violence, often caused by illicit drugs, are commonplace, although recent steps to detect contraband are promising. Prompt implementation of the Key Worker scheme has led to better relationships between staff and prisoners.
  • While extra investment and more staff have enabled the new Governor to focus on developing resilient operational performance instead of continual fire-fighting, the deep-seated challenges require concerted effort and the positive trajectory can very easily be disrupted.

Angus Somerville, Chair of HMP/YOI Winchester IMB, said:

“However, the quality of the time a man spends out of his cell is as important as the quantity – if not more so – and progress in that respect has been slower. The pervasive influence of drugs, violence, and self-harm, together with the inadequate environment all serve to frustrate the undeniable efforts of the many dedicated prison staff working at Winchester.”

“In our last report, the IMB attributed much of what was wrong with HMP/YOI Winchester to a lack of funding and resources. Today, I can say that additional investment has undoubtedly made a positive impact, resulting in many more staff, an easing of the inhumanely restrictive regime, improving relationships and a calmer atmosphere overall this year.”