INMATES at Winchester prison became increasingly frustrated after severe regime restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has found.

The prison faced stark pressures made worse by increasing numbers of new arrivals and overcrowding, according to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke.

As previously reported, inmate John Malcolm Maunder died after catching Covid-19.

Daily Echo:

He had been serving a 13-year sentence for horrific sex offences when he became ill and was rushed to Southampton Hospital for radiotherapy.

However, his health deteriorated and he died at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester on April 20.

The new report reviews Winchester, along with HMP Leeds and HMP Thameside in south east London.

Mr Clarke said: “Most prisoners at Leeds and many at Winchester shared Victorian cells, originally built to hold only one person. Poor enough in normal times, this was even more unacceptable when prisoners were locked up for almost all of the day in cramped conditions.

“Most prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 22.5 hours every day and had been for some three months. At Leeds we observed some staff punishing poor behaviour by withdrawing an individual’s access to a shower for a day or more. This would always be unacceptable but was especially inappropriate because of the hot weather during the week of our visit [on June 23].”

However, Mr Clarke added: “Although prison restrictions were accepted as being necessary early in the pandemic and were, at that point, similar to those in the community, prisoners had become confused as to why community restrictions were easing but restrictions in prisons were not.”

In particular, in Winchester prisoners complained that a monthly newsletter was their main source of information and did not keep them updated about the developing situation.

He added: “This, along with the lack of purposeful activity, meant many prisoners were bored and frustrated. It was clear that more needed to be done in all the prisons to re-engage with prisoners and offer more activity to keep them occupied and well.”