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