Government-published figures have revealed that HM Prison Winchester is currently operating well over its prisoner Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA) capacity.
The Prison Service’s CNA measure calculates the maximum number of prisoners for which a ‘good, decent standard of accommodation that the service aspires to provide all prisoners’ could be provided to, at any one time. Ministry of Justice figures released for the month of July state that the Winchester prison held 607 prisoners. Its baseline CNA is 459, while its ‘in use CNA’ allows for 439 individuals to be held before overcrowding occurs. Based on the prison’s in use CNA figure, Winchester Prison operated during the month of July 38.27% (rounded to 2dp) over recommended capacity. The prison’s overall operational capacity is 655, meaning that Winchester is at 93% of its maximum capacity before the institution’s control and security is compromised.
As such, these figures equate to inmates being forced to share spaces like cells and toilet facilities due to the overcrowding. Furthermore, Winchester Prison is now more overcrowded proportionately than Birmingham Prison, which only last week was taken over by the government from the private management of security firm G4S. Inspectors found Birmingham to be in a ‘state of crisis’ with Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke even going so far as to declare it the worst prison he’d ever visited.
According to The Hampshire Chronicle, Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson, commenting on the latest prison figures, said:
Overcrowding isn’t simply a case of being forced to share a confined space for up to 23 hours a day where you must eat, sleep and go to the toilet.
It directly undermines all the basics of a decent prison system, including work, safety and rehabilitation.
Winchester Prison is located in Winchester city centre just off Romsey Road, a minute’s walk from Royal Hampshire County Hospital. It’s a Category B Local male prison with a small Category C resettlement unit, originally built in Victorian times. Category B is the second-highest category in the seriousness of offences committed, designated for prisoners ‘who do not require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult-like’, while male-only prisons are not unusual, especially in consideration of the fact that, as of 24 August 2018, 95.42% (rounded to 2dp) of the UK’s total 83,064 prison population is male.
According to a House of Commons Library briefing, Winchester was the 9th worst prison for overcrowding in May 2018. Meanwhile, Winchester’s rating in the Ministry of Justice’s annual prison performance ratings slipped from a rating 3 in 2016/17 – ‘meeting the majority of targets’ – to the lowest possible rating of 1 in 2017/18. Prisons with a rating of 1 are those in which their performance ‘is deemed of serious concern’. Winchester was deemed in such dire straits back in January that it was placed in special measures. An inspection report published in December 2017 had described the prison as ‘teetering on the edge of a major incident’, compared the prison’s separation unit to an ‘unpleasant dungeon’ and believed that the prison did not prepare the prisoners well for release.
Measures taken since the inspection time period include body-worn cameras on staff and extra staff being recruited. Meanwhile, nationwide, £10 million in funds was recently announced to 10 of the most challenging prisons to try to reduce violence and other persistent problems.
However, with 55.55% of all prisons operating over in use CNA capacity last month, it’s not unlikely that further measures and funding boosts may be required to aid the struggling Prison Service.