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PRISON officers at HMP Winchester have demanded urgent action after an inspectors’ report published today said that violence had “increased” at the notorious jail and safety remained a “major concern.”
The inspection, carried out last June and July, found high levels of violence, self-harm and suicides over the past three years, with a “significant deterioration” in conditions during that time.
The probe was ordered after the 174-year-old prison was put into special measures in 2018 due to government concerns about poor conditions and lack of proper resources for prisoners and staff.
Further concerns were raised in August, when 150 inmates were transferred to other jails after a riot, which culminated in skirmishes between prisoners, police and special prison officers.
POA national executive committee member Sarah Rigby told the Morning Star: “Prison staff at Winchester do a superb job under very difficult circumstances.
“They continue to have problems with high levels of drug use, which is affecting both staff and prisoners on a daily basis and making an already difficult job near impossible at times.
“The high levels of drug use must be addressed to try to make the prison safer. All incidents of violence against staff are serious and must be treated as such.
“Staff need support from management in addressing these issues if things are to improve.
“Only after improvements are made and the prison is stabilised can we begin to rehabilitate the prisoners who are held there.”
Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson said conditions at the jail were “surely a matter” for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, given that the government plans to send more people to prison for longer.
Mr Dawson warned that having too many prisoners was not a problem any governor could solve.
Prison and Probation Service director-general Phil Copple said: “There is still much to do at HMP Winchester, but I know the governor and his staff have been working hard to improve safety and I am pleased inspectors have recognised their dedication to achieving that.
“Everybody at the prison has been focused on delivering further improvement.
“Since the inspection, prisoners who are new to custody are receiving additional support, repair and improvement work is ongoing and the most violent and high-risk prisoners are being managed better.”
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