Winchester Prison: “Teetering on The Edge of Major Incident” Warns Watchdog

winchesterThe situation at a prison is “fragile” with a prevailing sense that it is “teetering on the edge of a major incident”, a report has warned.

It said a lack of staff at HMP Winchester has resulted in a “steady deterioration” of the environment and a “noticeable rise in tension”.

There has been an increase in self-harm, assaults on officers and disruptive behaviour, according to the jail’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

Despite the efforts of staff, mobile phones are frequently found in the prison, the assessment said.

The IMB’s report said: “The prisoners who are unemployed are allowed out of their cells for just an hour a day for all domestic activity and association.

“This is neither restorative nor rehabilitative and only adds to the frustration of the prisoners.

“It is entirely due to the resilience and dedication of the whole staff and their leadership that disruptions similar to that reported by other prisons have not yet been repeated in Winchester.”

It noted the jail, which holds about 690 male inmates, has had a level of success in tackling the inflow of drugs, including new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Changes in the patterns of contraband were observed following the outlawing of NPS – previously known as “legal highs” – and the introduction of a smoking ban at HMP Winchester at the end of January.

The IMB report, covering June 2016 to May 2017, said: “There has been a reduction in NPS related incidents and the introduction of tobacco as a competing contraband with other drugs.”

Read the full report here:

HMP Winchester – some significant progress but safety challenges remain


HMP Winchester continued to make progress but needed to focus on safety and the amount of time prisoners had out of their cell, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an announced inspection of the local prison in Hampshire.

HMP Winchester has two parts – a traditional Victorian establishment and local prison holding up to 561 prisoners of varying age, category and status, and the smaller West Hill site holding 129 sentenced category C prisoners. After a particularly critical inspection in 2012, inspectors returned in 2014 because of concerns. In 2014, inspectors found a prison that had made slow and limited progress and a place that needed to refocus on the basics. Inspectors decided to return quickly again for an announced inspection in the hope that this might help to encourage improvement. Overall during its most recent inspection, inspectors were pleased to find a prison that was doing much better, despite big challenges.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • new prisoners were being treated reasonably well, although they were let down by some weak first night arrangements;
  • there were good initiatives to try to combat violence and although recorded levels had increased, few incidents were serious;
  • security across both sites was proportionate and the prison was doing some useful work to tackle the use of illicit drugs;
  • there was clear evidence of an improved staff culture and on both sites, prisoners felt respected by staff;
  • the provision of work, training and education had improved across both sites and was now reasonably good;
  • the quality of education and work on offer was generally good, with a focus on employability skills;
  • work to prepare prisoners for release was reasonable across both sites and inspectors found much better offender management and supervision than they normally see; and
  • work across most resettlement pathways was good but despite efforts to secure accommodation on release, too many prisoners were released homeless.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • support for those at risk of self-harm was weak and five prisoners had tragically taken their own lives since the last inspection in 2014, with a further self-inflicted death since this inspection;
  • the segregation unit was bleak and oppressive and should be replaced;
  • the daily routine was restricted in the older part of the prison, mainly owing to problems with staffing levels and supervision, meaning time out of cell for a sizable minority could be as little as 45 minutes a day;
  • the condition of cells in the older part needed improvement and overcrowding needed to be reduced; and
  • work on equality and diversity needed to improve and the basic social care needs of some prisoners had not been met.

Peter Clarke said:

“HMP 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.”

A copy of the full report can be found

Jury highly critical of Winchester Prison staff who ignored self-harm warnings on prisoner later found hanging

commits-suicide-in-jailSheldon Woodford was found hanging in his cell in HMP Winchester on 9 March 2015 and was pronounced dead at hospital on 12 March 2015.

After a two-week inquest, the  jury has returned a highly critical narrative conclusion finding that lack of staff, training and consistent care across the prison and  healthcare led to a failure to spot obvious and escalating patterns of risk regarding Sheldon’s self-harm.

Despite the self-harm warnings accompanying Sheldon’s arrival at the prison, neither the reception officer nor the first nurse who assessed Sheldon, placed him under suicide and self harm management programme in part due to the fact that vital information was not properly shared or made available. His risk of self harm and suicide was not formally assessed until ten days later, after Sheldon had cut his wrists.

The level of observations Sheldon was monitored under did not always always reflect his risk of self-harm – including staff only being required to check Sheldon twice an hour when he returned to prison after a serious suicide attempt. Meetings in relation to his risk of self harm were often not multidisciplinary and the prison staff did not receive adequate training to identify and manage his risk of self harm.

At Sheldon’s final case review, held three days after he returned from intensive care having attempted to hang himself (and five days before he placed a ligature round his neck for the second, fatal time), Sheldon’s risk was graded as “low”. This was despite the fact that the hospital who had discharged Sheldon had described him as “high risk”, a prison GP considered his risk to stem from his “impulsive” and “unpredictable” behavior, and the prison psychiatrist, told the inquest that the “low” grading was incorrect and inappropriate.

The jury retuning a highly critical narrative conclusion, found that the failure to identify Sheldon’s escalating levels of risk of self harm, insufficient levels of prison and healthcare staffing, inadequate training on how to assess and manage risks of self harm contributed to Sheldon’s death.  They also identified unstructured application of the suicide and self harm management programme resulting inadequate integration between prison and healthcare as a contributory factor in his death.

The Coroner indicated that she will be making recommendations to prevent future deaths in relation to training of prison staff and officers in suicide and self harm management and also in relation to the sharing of information.

Sheldon Woodford’s partner Alex said:

“We always believed that Sheldon was badly let down by the system at HMP Winchester and we are pleased that the jury found that this was the case.To have had to visit him once in an induced coma after a hanging attempt was bad enough, but we had hoped that the prison would learn from the risks that Sheldon was clearly presenting and provide him with the care and support he needed.To have to return again to an intensive care unit less than two weeks later, and to have to make the horrendous decision to turn off his life support machine, was devastating and broke our hearts.

We hope that the jury’s highly critical findings and the coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report will mean that eventually other families will not have to go through this. We also hope that the government will consider the failures in staffing levels and training which contributed to Sheldon’s death before making any further cuts to the prison system”

Alex Tasker’s solicitor Karen Rogers said:

The failure to properly implement ACCT procedures in this case was shocking. The evidence showed there was far too much reliance on prisoners’ self-report, and insufficient attention paid to obvious and escalating risks of self-harm.”

Deborah Coles : Director of INQUEST said :

“Sheldon’s risk of suicide should have been obvious to anyone who was responsible to keep him safe. That the jury found such fundamental failings in care, training and staffing levels sends a clear warning to Government about the crisis in prisons. There have been 3 further self inflicted deaths in HMP Winchester. The Prisons Minister must account to Sheldon’s family as to what action is to be taken in response to the serious failings identified.”


Inquiry into Winchester Prison deaths

The deaths of four inmates in cells at Winchester prison in two months has prompted an investigation.

Mohamed Emamy-Foroushani, 40, was due to appear at Southampton Crown Court on Monday but died on 2 September.

His death followed those of Haydn Burton, 42, on 15 July, Daryl Hargrave, 22, on 19 July, and Jason Payne, 30, on 17 August.

A Prison Service spokesman said the circumstances of each death would now be reviewed.

He said: “Any death in prison is a tragedy and reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths is a priority.

“All deaths in custody are fully investigated by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

“This is something we take incredibly seriously and we are reviewing the circumstances of each death.”

He said it was believed Mr Payne died of natural causes.

Following an unannounced visit in 2014, inspectors described HMP Winchester as “insufficiently safe” with ineffective anti-bullying measures.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said last year the UK saw a record number of deaths in custody, and more than a third were self-inflicted.

“Massive cuts in staffing, increased violence and the use of psychoactive drugs have all taken their toll,” she said

HMP WINCHESTER – Not enough progress


HMP Winchester was not making sufficient progress, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the Hampshire jail.

HMP Winchester is a complex establishment, in effect two prisons in one. The main category B site is a Victorian prison holding 556 men while the newer West Hill site is a category C training prison holding 129 men. At its last inspection in October 2012, inspectors found that outcomes had deteriorated sharply. Because inspectors were seriously concerned about the prison, this more recent inspection was, unusually, announced so that the prison would have a clear deadline for making improvements. There had been some progress but too little had been done.

As before, the prison was seriously overcrowded and was operating at 35% above its certified normal capacity. As a result of the closure of other local prisons in the west of England, the prison was serving a much larger catchment area. Some men’s progress had been set back because they had moved prisons in the middle of training courses or other work to address their behaviour. The prison had started to hold young adults following the closure of Reading Young Offenders Institution and was struggling to manage them safely. These population changes, budget reviews and other national policy initiatives had been challenging to manage.

Despite these challenges, inspectors were pleased to find that:

·         relationships between staff and prisoners had improved considerably;

·         the prison was much cleaner;

·         prisoners had more time out of their cells;

·         there had been a major effort to reduce the availability of illegal drugs and to improve support for prisoners with substance abuse problems;

·         health care services were getting better and support for at risk of self-harm was reasonable; and

·         there had been much better progress on the West Hill site than on the main site.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

·         the main prison remained insufficiently safe and more prisoners said they felt unsafe at the time of this inspection than at the last inspection in 2012 or than at other similar prisons;

·         measures to reduce violence were weak and measures to address the behaviour of bullies were ineffective;

·         the segregation unit continued to provide an unacceptably poor environment and regime;

·         there was a failure to collect and/or use data effectively to understand what was happening and to take the necessary corrective action;

·         not enough thought had been put into managing the behaviour of the newly arrived young adults, who were over-represented in violent incidents;

·         too many prisoners were still locked up during the day on the main site;

·         the management of learning and skills, the quality of provision and prisoners’ achievements all required improvement;

·         although the number of activity places had increased, too many available places stood empty; and

·         little thought had been given toWinchester’s new role as a resettlement prison and resettlement outcomes remained insufficient on both sites.


Nick Hardwick said:

“HMP Winchester had made progress since our very critical inspection in 2012 but the progress was slow and limited. The prison needs a clear focus on the basics – keeping the men it holds safe and secure, treating all of them decently and preparing them to return to the community at less risk of reoffending, with good quality activities and resettlement support. We will look forward to receiving their action plan in response to this report’s recommendations and will expect to see much greater progress when we return.”


Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:”As the Chief Inspector points out,Winchester has improved its performance since the last inspection but I accept there is more to do.


“A tougher violence reduction policy is now in place and the regime provides more activity and time out of cells for prisoners.


“The Governor will use the recommendations in the report to drive forward further improvement over the next 12 months”




Notes to Editors:

1.       A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 24 June 2014 at:

2.       HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.

3.       This announced inspection was carried out from 17-24 February 2014.

4.       HMP Winchester is a category B local adult male prison, with a separate category C unit known as West Hill.