A FORMER Winchester Prison officer has spoken out about how it is being affected by cuts to staff.

Chris Muzzall, 56, from Eastleigh, has written a book of his experience working as a prison officer from 1983 to 2014.

He took early retirement and decided to get officers to tell their stories about their work.

He self-published Screws: prison staff in conversation, which has sold more than 400 copies.

Chris began his career at Feltham youth custody in 1983 before working at several London prisons.

He spent 13 years of his 30 year service at Winchester, and specialised as a healthcare officer.

He said: "The camaraderie found among staff can only be found elsewhere amongst members of the services, who recognise 'battle fatigue', because at this time it's a very real battle in these jails."

He said the biggest problem facing Winchester Prison and others around the country is the lack of staff following post-austerity cutbacks.

"I have been out of the service for a couple of years now, but keep in touch with many still serving. Before I left there was a huge cut in front line staff and that continues today," he said.

"Where there was once five or six officers on a wing of 150 inmates there are now only two officers. It is becoming very dangerous for staff and inmates with assaults rising year on year.

"The rise of new drugs such as Spice - a drug which can turn the user psychotic - means the danger to all is heightened.

"It appears that the long term plan of both current and the last government of cutting staff has been a very dangerous one. I fear for the safety of all in prisons at this time.

"The current prisons minister has promised 2,500 more staff but the problem is that with recruitment and training taken into account it would take a year to eighteen months to get those staff into place."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We are committed to transforming prisons into places of safety and reform and we've announced a major overhaul of the prison system including 2,500 extra frontline officers.

"We have already invested £14 million to provide more than 400 extra staff in ten of the most challenging prisons, including HMP Winchester.

"We are also introducing a new scheme to attract top graduates and former servicemen and women into the service, and giving governors greater flexibility over recruitment so they can address staffing quickly."