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.