MORE than a dozen prisoners are reported to have broken out of their cells at Winchester Prison, it has been reported.

Nineteen prisoners are said to have run amok in their wing before anti-riot officers regained control last night.

The prisoners allegedly unpicked the mortar around the cell doors using utensils from the kitchen.

A national newspaper today reported sources from the prison officers' union, the POA, stating inmates removed the bricks to squeeze out of their cells. "They ran around the landings encouraging more prisoners to break out of their cells," said a source.

A team from the National Tactical Response Group was called into the prison to restore order. "Tornado staff intervened. Most prisoners surrendered. Some jumped on the netting. PAVA (Pepper spray) was deployed and the prisoners were removed," a source told the paper.

This afternoon prison vans were lined up outside the jail on Romsey Road to remove inmates to other prisons.

The Prison Officers Association are said to have written to Winchester Prison chiefs last year warning that three inmates had “dug through their cell walls” and demanded the wing be cleared to allow structural engineers to check the building’s fabric.

Mark Fairhurst, chairman of the POA, demanded the Ministry of Justice close the wing and decamp the prisoners to other jails so that repairs and renovation could be carried out.

He said: “This is a serious incident when you have prisoners from different cells get onto the landing at night when there is only one member of staff on patrol. It raises serious questions over the safety of staff.”

Winchester prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has long had issues about the regime at the jail. It says the Victorian prison’s buildings need “significant” maintenance with the failure to carry out such work “regularly resulting in cells being out of use.”

Describing accommodation as unacceptable and the conditions as “unpleasant and dirty,” the IMB said: “Cells regularly need repair because of wear and tear or vandalism.”

Winchester Prison is no stranger to trouble. In December 2015 siz prison officers were injured in disturbances.