HMP Winchester - a disappointing lack of progress

Read the report: HMP Winchester

Inspectors to HMP Winchester, a category B local men’s prison with a separate category C unit, were disappointed to find that no meaningful progress had been made since the last inspection in 2019. Winchester continued to be one of the most violent prisons in the country.

The prison, which held 492 prisoners at the time of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ visit, continued to deliver poor outcomes for prisoners in the main category B site in safety and purposeful activity, and not sufficiently good outcomes in respect and rehabilitation planning. In the category C unit, as in 2019, scores were slightly higher, but a lack of management investment or innovation meant that opportunities had been missed to make this a thriving unit that incentivised the behaviour of the population on the main site.

Inspectors saw improvement in the management of the most serious perpetrators of violence – staff used challenge, support, and intervention plans effectively, tailoring plans to fit the individual. However, the overall numbers of assaults on staff and prisoners were higher than in similar prisons, noticeably in the local site, which was far more violent than the category C site. There was little routine investigation of violent incidents. Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:

“There was no meaningful strategy to understand and address the causes of violence within the main population.”

Provision of purposeful activity was lacking in both the local and category C sites. Most prisoners in the local site were locked in their cells for 22.5 hours a day; the category C prisoners were allowed onto the landing, but neither site gave prisoners sufficient access to any purposeful activity. Too many prisoners were unemployed, or not yet allocated to any activity. Across both sites, inspectors saw prisoners routinely sleeping their days away, jobless and demotivated.

Living conditions were far worse than in similar prisons and, in many areas, worse than at the time of the last inspection. Prisoners complained to inspectors that they had nowhere to store possessions safely. Locked in their cells for most of the day, they had to eat their meals next to dirty, uncovered, and unscreened toilets. A ‘decency policy’ had recently been introduced but there was little evidence of improvement as a result.

The enthusiasm of the education managers was wasted as the prison was unable to get prisoners to classrooms and workshops consistently and on time. Ofsted judged outcomes for prisoners as inadequate across the board.

Mr Taylor said:

“There is no doubt that the pandemic has limited some of the progress at Winchester, but leaders have failed to show enough real, sustained grip.

“If it is to improve from this disappointing inspection, the prison will need leaders to be active and visible on the wings, and set clear, measurable targets for improvement so that prisoners are safer, kept in decent conditions and given enough to do during the day.”

– End –

Notes to editors

  1. Read the HMP Winchester report, published 25 May 2022.
  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. HMP Winchester was built in 1849 in a radial design typical of Victorian prisons. In 1908, the health care unit was built, and in 1964 another unit was added as a remand centre for young offenders. The unit, known as West Hill, continued to be used for this function until 1991, when it started housing women prisoners. In 2004, its role changed to a category C resettlement unit.
  4. HMP Winchester is a category B local men’s prison with a separate category C unit. The establishment also holds young adults.
  5. At the time of this inspection, the establishment held 492 prisoners.
  6. Inspectors identified five examples of notable positive practice.
  7. This inspection took place on 31 January – 1 February and 7–11 February 2022.
  8. Please email Ed Owen at or call on 07774 759653 if you would like more information.