The Daily Telegraph
Prisoners riot after using bed legs to dig their way out of cells
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.”