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Inspectors issue damning report into deteriorating Winchester Prison
A DAMNING report today slams falling standards at Winchester Prison.
The category B jail has deteriorated sharply and is now of serious concern, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said.
Amidst a catalogue of poor performance, two severely disabled prisoners were crammed for 23 and a half hours a day into a cell designed for one during the inspection last October.
The two had not showered for months and relied on other inmates to take them their meals, HM Inspectorate of Prisons found.
Staff were unaware that the two could not use the shower on their landing as it was not adapted.
The men had a small cell window that was painted over so they had to choose between keeping out the cold or shutting out the light, the report added.
A third of the 680 prisoners told inspectors illegal drugs were “easily available”, while one in 10 developed a drug habit within the jail walls. Drug use was relatively high and too few prisoners suspected of taking drugs were tested.
More than half had felt unsafe, while there was insufficient action to tackle violence.
Inspectors witnessed “foul abuse” towards vulnerable prisoners in the exercise yard. Almost four out of five vulnerables felt unsafe at some time, while inappropriate sexual images of naked women were found on their wing.
The day-to-day experience of many prisoners was poor, with insufficient activity places, the report said. Resettlement work, preparing inmates for release, was weak.
Mr Hardwick said new governor David Rogers was tackling its problems: “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 coordinated.”
He added: “The new leadership was aware of many of the problems and we saw early signs of a determined effort to tackle them.”
The Inspectorate also found that resources were stretched with problems made worse by a lack of a stable leadership.
Governor David Ward was on sick leave before his replacement by Mr Rogers last September.
Mr Rogers, 46, in charge of a £13 million annual budget and some 300 staff, told the Chronicle: “The place was struggling to be frank. Like anything, to have a ship without a captain, it was slightly rudderless.
“I’m starting to import some of my vision and morals. In this environment that is very important. It is a belief borne out of 22 years in the prison service.”
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.
“This is a prison where inmates didn’t feel safe and the vulnerable were abused, where drugs were easily available but laundry facilities were not. Graffiti was found throughout, including sexual images, but 95 per cent of prisoners struggled to get on programmes to help them turn their backs on crime.”