Berwyn is the newest prison in England & Wales, opened in early 2017. When fully up to capacity – 2106 – it will be biggest prison in the country (and the second largest in Europe!), although at the time of my visit it was around half full.
It’s just outside Wrexham in North Wales (and known as Carchar Berwyn EM In Welsh), and a short drive south of Liverpool. It took its name from the Berwyn mountain range, which stretches away to the south east.
Managers praised the jail’s ‘rehabilitation culture’ and the attitudes of staff & managers. They rated a ‘strong’ prison council and wide range of peer mentors, as well as ‘excellent’ visit facilities, extended family visits, a homework club etc. Reception was ‘the best you’ll find’, offering a warm and comfortable welcome, and together with a week-long induction ‘set the tone’ for the prison. Healthcare was ‘excellent’, and a wide range of services, inc. the pharmacy’s ‘meds-optimisation’ programme, reduced the need for outside hospital visits. They rated education & training, the older prisoner unit, and facilities including showers, phones & kiosk-type facilities (via tablets) in cells. The gardens and grounds were a positive for all, and the mess was valued by staff.
The Officers praised the attitude of staff, noted a ‘very strong’ bond (helped by outside socialising) between staff, and said relationships with prisoners (referred to as ‘residents’), based on first-name terms, were ‘excellent’. CMs and the SMT were praised as ‘highly supportive’ and ‘visible’. They valued monthly full staff meetings and staff recognition (including a ‘caught doing good’ scheme), as well as the staff mess. They also rated the range of peer mentors and the ‘strong’ and ‘well embedded’ prisoner council.
The prisoners called staff-prisoner relations ‘excellent’, valued being called ‘residents’ and the use of first names, and felt ‘very safe’. They highlighted visits, and extended family visits in particular, as ‘fantastic’, noting ‘comfy side-by-side seating’ and the right to ‘wear your own clothes: with no bibs’. They rated the range of peer mentors and the prisoner council, while VR reps, who have a mediation role here, were ‘key to safety’. They liked in-cell showers, phones and laptop-based kiosk facilities (‘better than on the wing’, ‘no queues’, ‘do it in your time’), and said the gardens and green spaces made a real difference, too.