HMIP Inspections of Winchester

The prison was given an inspection in February 2022, 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 is a small, Victorian, local prison that serves the courts in south and central England. At the time of our inspection it held nearly 500 prisoners in the main category B prison and a small, separate category C facility. Over half of the prisoners were unsentenced.

At our last inspection in 2019, we found a prison struggling with high levels of violence and which was providing prisoners with very little time out of cell. On our return, we were disappointed to find that – despite some limited progress – our healthy prison test scores remained the same. Winchester continued to be one of the most violent prisons in the country.

While there had been impressive work to reduce the risk posed by some of the most violent prisoners, there was no meaningful strategy to understand and address the causes of violence within the main population. Most prisoners were locked in their cells for 22.5 hours a day, and even more at the weekend. The enthusiastic education managers were very frustrated by the prison’s inability to get prisoners to classrooms and workshops, both consistently and on time. This made it impossible to plan work programmes because they did not know who, if anyone, was going turn up each day. There was no assessment of the skills of prisoners when they came into the prison, which meant that those who had been employed in the community were not provided with suitable work.

As during our 2019 inspection, men on the category C side of the prison did not have enough to do. We found a group of relatively low-risk prisoners who were bored and frustrated by the lack of activity, while workshops were underused and the gardens were out of bounds. There is huge scope to develop the offer for these prisoners and create a thriving, productive environment which will support sentence progression and provide an incentive to prisoners on the main site.

Despite some improvements to the fabric of Winchester’s buildings, such as new showers on some wings, ongoing issues with the water supply meant that fewer prisoners than any prison we have visited were able to have a daily shower. Many of the cells, particularly on the C4 landing, were covered in graffiti or dilapidated, with worn out furniture and lavatories. Leaders had put up posters around the prison showing their aspiration for how cells ought to look, but there was no credible plan for how or when these improvements would be made.

The prison had struggled to recruit and retain enough staff and this problem was directly affecting the day-to-day running of the jail, where at times there were simply not enough officers to ensure even the most basic regime for prisoners. Officers were frequently cross deployed from the gym and the offender management unit which meant access to these services was further reduced. Leaders will need to develop an understanding of why so many officers (in an affluent part of the country with low levels of unemployment) are leaving the prison and put in place some meaningful support to help retain good staff members during their first year of service.

Inspectors were frequently impressed by many of the officers and staff, who showed great skill and dedication in their work, despite the many challenges that they had faced over the last two years. Leaders had managed to keep visits going during the latest lockdown and this was a real achievement, given how frequently the prison was short staffed.

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.

Charlie Taylor
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
March 2022

Return to Winchester

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

  • Inspection report (1 MB), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Winchester by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (31 January – 1 February  and 7-11 February 2022
  • HMP Winchester (1.76 MB) Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Winchester (17 June – 5 July 2019)
  • 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)

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