WINCHESTER Prison is on the verge of a major breakdown in order with a regime that borders on the inhumane for inmates, says a report out today.

The jail watchdogs, the Independent Monitoring Board, have highlighted five major area of concern at the troubled prison with a lack of staff the root cause.

The IMB report for the year ended May 31 says that:

• four deaths were linked to ineffective management of care;

• inadequate staffing means men often have only one hour a day out of their cells;

• the subterranean segregation unit, described as a “dungeon”, is still unfit for purpose;

• healthcare delivers an inadequate service and is beset by inconsistent leadership and insufficient staff;

• poorly maintained and dilapidated Victorian buildings reinforce alienation amongst prisoners, prevent full disabled access and undermine morale throughout the jail.

The Daily Echo has reported on breakdowns of order at the jail in recent months.

The report said: “Given that HMP Winchester’s population includes young offenders, remand prisoners, lifers, prisoners on IEPs (Incentive and Earned Privileges), and elderly prisoners, the situation is fragile and there is a prevailing sense that the prison is teetering on the edge of a major incident.”

The report paints a picture of a willing workforce who are hampered through lack of money, poor contracting, and a high turnover of staff and prisoners.

There is an “unacceptable level” of stress among staff leading to an excessive average sickness level and poor retention, due to salaries not being increased in line with surrounding prisons, says the report.

Lack of staff has resulted in a noticeable rise in tension characterised by an increase in self harm, the use of banned substances, assaults and violent, disruptive behaviour.

The prison is deemed to be “complex” as it has both B and C category prisoners, with those on remand, sentenced (including some serving a life sentence) or awaiting sentence, about 45 young offenders and a wing of vulnerable prisoners, most of them sex offenders. The prison has over 23,000 annual arrivals and departures with a prisoner population of about 690. Although it holds the correct number for its certification, the IMB believe that the Victorian cells are too small for the double occupancy that many are used for.