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Watchdog slams falling standards at Winchester prison
A HAMPSHIRE prison, which houses Basingstoke criminals, is seriously overcrowded and riddled with drugs, according to a watchdog.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), also found more than half of inmates at HMP Winchester said they had felt unsafe at some time, and vulnerable prisoners were being abused and left without activities.
The report, published yesterday, comes after inspectors from HMIP visited the Category B male adult prison in October last year.
During their visit, inspectors found two older, severely disabled men sharing a cell built by the Victorians for one. Both men were locked up for nearly 24 hours a day, had not showered for months because of poor access and were reliant on other prisoners to collect their meals.
Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said: “Until shortly before the inspection, HMP Winchester was neglected and drifting.
“There had been pockets of good practice and although many staff did their best, their efforts were often haphazard, inconsistent and badly co-ordinated.”
He added that new governor David Rogers, appointed just before the inspection, was starting to tackle the problems, but it would be a “long, hard task”.
The prison, in West Hill, Winchester, built in 1846, currently holds 680 prisoners although its recommended accommodation level is 499.
Prisoners were negative about access to faith leaders, with Christians having to register before they could attend religious services, and Muslim prayers being carried out in the prison gym.
The report also found:
* Comparatively high levels of bullying and victimisation
* Poor management of a prisoner’s first 24 hours in prison
* One third of prisoners said drugs were easily available
* Poor quality prison clothing and bedding.
But the inspectors did say that conditions in the more modern Category C section were better, visits provision was good and there was good support for armed forces veterans.
Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: “I accept that performance at Winchester has fallen short of the standards expected.
“As the chief inspector acknowledges, the new governor has begun to tackle the deficiencies and I am confident that these will be properly addressed and rectified.
“In particular, concerns about levels of violence and first night procedures are being robustly tackled, and we are urgently putting enhanced measures in place to address the supply and circulation of illicit drugs.”
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is exceptionally disturbing to see a prison with a previously good reputation collapse to such lows.
“The damning report into this overcrowded and dangerous prison is yet another symptom of our overstretched and wasteful justice system.”