A thought-provoking exhibition sharing the stories of the people who live and work at Winchester Prison, Hampshire’s county jail, is running until February 26 at The Allen Gallery in Alton.

The Doing Time exhibition, which opened last Friday, and an accompanying book tell the story of 175 years of Winchester Prison history, the harsh prison regimes of the past and today’s focus on education, training and reform.

Prison life is revealed in a series of interviews with staff including prison governor James Bourke who shares the challenges of supporting prisoners with complex social, mental and physical needs.

The impact of what often can be life-changing education and training, healthcare and counselling is told in the words of prisoners who have turned their lives around at HMP Winchester.

2,000 men pass through Winchester Prison every year
2,000 men pass through Winchester Prison every year (Javaid Akhtar )

The book and exhibition were written by Winchester Magazine editor Liz Kavanagh who spent more than six months visiting the prison before, after and during the pandemic when prisoners were almost permanently locked in cells. The exhibition was curated by Leonie Mountney and is supported by Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Photography by award-winning Winchester photographer Javaid Akhtar features throughout, revealing the stark reality of prison life.

Liz Kavanagh said: “Each year, 2,000 men pass through Winchester Prison, on remand, awaiting release and serving sentences.

“The book and exhibition provide an overview of the many individuals who make up the prison – from teachers and prison officers to the prisoners themselves. Their stories have been written as they have been told – without agenda.

The exhibition and book provide real insight into what life is like behind the walls of Winchester Prison
The exhibition and book provide real insight into what life is like behind the walls of Winchester Prison (Javaid Akhtar )

“They reveal the huge challenges that the prison faces operationally as well as the dedication of the people who work there.

“They also highlight the pitfalls of a criminal justice system where reoffending is far too common. The stories told by prisoners are particularly insightful, revealing how debt, drug addiction and lack of family support can all lead to crime.”

Deborah Neubauer, director of community and impact at Hampshire Cultural Trust, said: “The exhibition and book have provided real insight into what life is like behind the walls in one of Winchester’s most prominent landmarks. The stories that have been shared are both challenging and inspirational.”

The book Doing Time is available to buy for £10 from P & G Wells at www.pgwells.co.uk/shop/local-interest/doing-time

For more information and opening times at The Allen Gallery in Alton, see www.hampshireculture.org.uk/allen-gallery