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Staff increase to combat violence at Winchester Prison

An increase in staff at Winchester Prison is set to improve care for inmates and working conditions for officers.

The planned rise in officers is part of a £14 million government initiative to provide over 400 extra staff for 10 prisons with some of the highest levels of violence and self-harm in England.

Ministry of Justice data shows that the Category B Winchester Prison had some of the highest regional figures for deaths among inmates in 2015 with three deaths and four suicides.

Due to a surge in violence, up to 10,000 prison officers in England stopped work since 2010, sparking an inspection in July 2016.

The Report on Announced Inspection of HMP Winchester July 2016, found there had been 209 recorded incidents of self-harm in the previous six months at Winchester Prison.

Author of the report, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, found: “Recorded levels of bullying, assaults and fights had increased considerably and were all higher than at similar prisons.”

It also stated: “The level of self-harm had increased sharply and was now far higher than at other local prisons.”

One high-profile prisoner, Haydn Burton, a Fathers 4 Justice Campaigner, was found hanging in his cell in July 2015. His suicide led to an inquest that found more welfare checks could have prevented his death.

The prison suffers from a struggle to retain staff as a result of inadequate starting salaries – as low as £16,000pa – and unsafe working conditions due to attacks on officers as well as fighting between inmates.

Previous budget cuts combined with low staffing levels meaning prisoners are either left in their cells for too long, sometimes for up to 24 hours at a time, or are left unattended when out of their cells.

Ione Ashford, Chair of Friends of Winchester Prison charity, told WINOL: “This is something that has been going on for such a long time and I am delighted something is finally being done about it.

“The point is they need more staff to properly look after the prisoners,” added Ione, “so if they get more staff then they need to act upon it an ensure changes are made.”

When asked to comment, the new Governor of HMP Winchester, Stephanie Roberts-Bibby, said that no further information would be released until January 2017.

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