HMIP Inspections of Winchester

The prison was given an inspection in summer 2106, the full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:

“Winchester prison has two main components: a traditional Victorian establishment and local prison holding up to 561 prisoners of varying age, category and status, and the smaller and adjacent West Hill site holding 129 sentenced category C prisoners. Winchester is a tough prison to run and a place that this inspectorate has been critical of in recent years. Following a particularly critical inspection in 2012 we returned just two years later, in 2014, because of our concerns. At that inspection we found a prison that had made slow and limited progress and a place that needed to refocus on the basics. We decided to return quickly again, announcing this inspection – as is our practice in these circumstances – six months before our arrival, in  the hope that this might help to encourage improvement. Overall, during this inspection, we were pleased to  find a prison that was doing much better, despite big challenges.

New prisoners were being treated reasonably well, although they were  let down by some weak first night arrangements. Prisoner perceptions of their own safety were broadly in line with findings at comparable prisons and there were good initiatives to try to combat violence, although recorded levels had increased. Few incidents, however, were  serious and violence on the West Hill site was low. Support for those at risk of self-harm was much weaker, and five prisoners had tragically taken their own lives since we last inspected, with a further self-inflicted death since this inspection. Addressing its failings in this respect should be a priority for the prison, as highlighted in one of our main recommendations. Security across the two sites was proportionate and the prison was doing some useful work to try to tackle the use of illicit drugs.  There was emergent evidence to suggest the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) may have reduced, with most positive drug tests indicating that cannabis was more prevalent.

Our other key concern in the area of safety was the appalling condition of the segregation unit, a basement facility we have described as bleak and oppressive. At our previous inspection we made a main recommendation that the segregation unit should be replaced with a modern, fit-for-purpose facility. While there was an emergent plan to relocate the unit, the recommendation had not been addressed so we have repeated it in this report.

At the time of the inspection Winchester had been operating a restricted  daily routine for many months in the older part of the prison, mainly owing to problems with staffing levels and supervision. The situation was much better in West Hill. For a sizable minority this meant time out of cell could be as little as 45 minutes a day. This was a source of significant frustration for staff and prisoners, and was having a detrimental impact on almost all aspects of daily living in the prison, including access to work and learning, to basic amenities and to communication with family and other support networks. Addressing this issue is again a priority we  have highlighted in our recommendations.

Environmentally there was a contrast between the mostly reasonable conditions in West Hill (although these had deteriorated since our last inspection) and some poor conditions in the main prison. The condition of cells needed improvement and overcrowding needed to be reduced. Access to certain basic kit and amenities also remained problematic. We were told that the response of the maintenance contractor to environmental and maintenance issues as ften inadequate. Some improvements were starting to happen around the promotion of equality but these were embryonic and much more needed to be done. An important step forward was the clear evidence of improvement in staff culture, and on both sites most prisoners felt respected by staff. Our own observations supported this view, although staff appeared to us to be very stretched, which inevitably placed limits on the effectiveness of  the support they could provide.

Across both sites we found the provision of work, learning and skills to be improved and it was now reasonably good. Education and work places were  available for about 75% of the population but around 30% were unemployed. The quality of education and work on offer was generally good with a good focus on functional and employability skills and most engaged prisoners able to make progress.Our colleagues in Ofsted judged that all of the learning and skills and work provision was ‘good’ against all their assessments, which was better than we normally see in local prisons.

Outcomes in resettlement were similarly reasonable across both sites. The lack of a useful analysis of need was an omission but we found much better offender management and supervision than we normally see with some good outcomes evident. Demand for resettlement services was high and our observations suggested earlier intervention may assist, but again across most resettlement pathways provision was good. An exception was accommodation, where recent changes to how outcomes were being recorded suggested there may be a significant shortfall to be addressed. The function of West Hill would also have benefited from greater clarity. It had no specific resettlement remit, although the prisoners in the unit had greater expectations of the support the unit ought to be able to offer them.

Winchester continues to make progress – some of it very significant – notably in activity and resettlement. Some big challenges to improve safety  remain and the limited access to time out of cell was undermining much that the prison could offer. Improvements to the environment and access to the basics of daily living also remained priorities . The prison had a cohesive and decent management team and progress in staff culture was commendable . We hope this report and the recommendations it makes will help encourage and sustain the momentum we have seen.

Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM                                                               September                                                                          


HM Chief Inspector of Prisons”

Return to Winchester

To read the full reports, go to the Ministry of Justice site or follow the links below:

  • HMP Winchester (683.59 kB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Winchester (11-15 July 2016)
  • HMP Winchester, Announced inspection of HMP Winchester (17–21 February 2014)
  • HMP Winchester, Announced inspection of HMP Winchester (5-19 October 2012)
  • HMP Winchester, Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Winchester (13–16 September 2010)