The Daily Telegraph

Prison­ers riot af­ter us­ing bed legs to dig their way out of cells

- By Mason Boy­cott-owen

PRISON­ERS broke out of their cells and ri­oted af­ter dig­ging through walls with bed legs, a report found.

In Au­gust last year, around 20 prison­ers worked their way out of cells at HMP Winch­ester, Hants, overnight and the en­su­ing vi­o­lence ren­dered a prison wing un­in­hab­it­able.

As a re­sult of the dam­age, more than 150 prison­ers had to be moved to other pris­ons, mean­ing the fa­cil­ity had to re­duce its ca­pac­ity to 345, al­most half of its usual 650.

Footage of the riot was posted on so­cial me­dia last year af­ter it was sent to a prison cam­paigner by an in­mate.

The prison­ers were able to dig bricks out from the walls of the Vic­to­rian prison as the mor­tar had de­graded over the years. The report by the In­de­pen­dent Mon­i­tor­ing Board said that get­ting out of their cells us­ing makeshift tools proved “rel­a­tively easy”.

It also found that bids for free­dom were hap­pen­ing as late as May this year, af­ter one pris­oner had cre­ated a hole in his cell wall which al­lowed ac­cess to the shower area.

High­light­ing a wide range of is­sues with HMP Winch­ester, the board said that the state of the prison, in­clud­ing the un­screened toi­lets in cells and a “dun­geon-like” seg­re­ga­tion unit “can­not be con­sid­ered hu­mane in the 21st cen­tury”.

It said mak­ing sure the prison­ers were treated hu­manely and fairly was a “Her­culean task” due to drug abuse, vi­o­lence and over­crowded con­di­tions.

Prob­lems ex­tended across the board, even to cell fur­ni­ture, which was reg­u­larly smashed by in­mates. Around 10 tele­vi­sions per week had to be re­placed, cost­ing the prison over £120 each.

A Prison Ser­vice spokesman said: “In­spec­tors praised the progress made at HMP Winch­ester in the past year.

“A new X-ray scan­ner is pre­vent­ing drugs from en­ter­ing, re­pairs to the jail are now be­ing com­pleted quicker and ev­ery pris­oner has ded­i­cated sup­port. We know there is more to do and will con­tinue to strive for im­prove­ment.”

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