Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Winchester prisoners 'at risk from drugs and self-harm'

HMP Winchester Image copyright Chris Talbot
Image caption HMP Winchester consists of a Victorian prison (pictured) holding up to 561 prisoners and the smaller Westhill site with 129 inmates

A prison's inmates are at "serious risk" from the availability of drugs, high levels of self-harm and unfit buildings, a report has said.

HMP Winchester's "outdated fabric cannot provide a humane living environment", the prison's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said.

It also said inmates sometimes attacked staff with boiling water.

The Ministry of Justice said increased staffing would reduce self-harm and new scanners would help tackle drug use.

The IMB said the jail had made progress since it was placed into special measures in 2018, but its performance was "still unsatisfactory in a number of areas".

It said prison officers had to use force to tackle violence between 40 and 60 times a month and that this demonstrated "the fragile nature of the jail".

"A worrying trend has been the use of boiled water as a weapon. From a high point in July 2018 there has been a welcome reduction in such assaults," the report said.

"The scope for effective rehabilitation and the take-up of purposeful activity has been lower than required," the IMB added.

Publication of the annual report comes after inmates were filmed knocking through weak cell walls and rioting inside the prison in August.

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Media captionVideo footage shows prisoners dancing and running around the walkways

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "We are pleased the independent monitors found significant improvements have been made at HMP Winchester.

"Every prisoner now has a dedicated officer providing support during their time in custody, which, coupled with increased staffing levels, is helping to bring down levels of self-harm which are unacceptably high.

"New scanners are helping to tackle the illicit drugs which drive much of the violence and we have seen a reduction in drug use.

"We are under no illusion that there is still much work to be done at Winchester and across the estate, however, which is why this government is spending £100m on security measures and £2.5bn on 10,000 new, modern prison places."

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