DESPITE the highest staffing levels in years, Winchester Prison remains beset by problems, a new report says.

Its facilities, accommodation support and education and employment opportunities are all areas of concern raised by a watchdog.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has highlighted that the decaying Victorian building and rising prison population make consistently high standards hard to achieve.

However, the prison in Romsey Road was commended for its improved staffing position which has allowed prisoners more time out of their cells, health care services and a decrease in disorder.

Key findings from the 2023-23 annual report, published today, note leaking roofs, rotting outside stairways and unsatisfactory designs for the new Care and Segregation Unit which meant building work had to be stopped.

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The IMB has significant concerns about the help offered to prisoners to find accommodation on release, particularly remand prisoners released after a not guilty verdict as they are not eligible for support.

About 30 per cent of prisoners released in the last year did not have accommodation on their first night.

There are only 295 places for education and employment across the prison, which accommodates less than half of the prison’s population.

The board believes this severely impacts the prison’s ability to achieve its aims as a resettlement prison and prisoners’ chances of successful reintegration back into society.

Aside from decaying the building, the board recognised that safety had improved in some areas.

The total number of self-harm incidents decreased overall but there has been an increase in the number of prisoners who repeatedly self-harm.

Prisoner assaults on staff have reduced, but prisoner assaults on other prisoners have increased.

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Staff use of force has decreased by 17 per cent over the previous year and hooch (illegal alcoholic drink) is being used instead of other drugs, suggesting reduced availability of drugs.

HMP Winchester IMB chair Rob Heather said: “There has been some improvement over the year: staffing numbers have increased and the board observed better staff/prisoner relations, with many prison staff dealing sensitively and constructively with some very challenging prisoners.

“However, there remain areas where the prison fell short, including overcrowding and not enough purposeful activity. The old buildings continue to deteriorate.”

The main areas the IMB suggested for development included alternative provisions for the increasing numbers of elderly and disabled prisoners, improving the resettlement service and helping remand prisoners with release planning.