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.
The managers praised the staff’s ‘rehabilitation culture’, their outside agency engagement, and a staff mess that helped bonding. They rated a ‘strong’ prison council, peer mentors, and ‘excellent’ visit facilities with country views, extended family visits, a homework club etc. ‘The best reception you’ll find’ ‘set the tone’ with a ‘comfortable’ welcome, as did a week-long induction. The ‘excellent’ healthcare offered many services, including the pharmacy’s ‘meds-optimisation’, and ‘reduced hospital visits’. They liked education & training, the older prisoner unit, in-cell showers, phones & laptops (used like kiosks for visits, canteen & menus, appointments, phone credit top-up, etc.) and the ‘excellent’ gardens and grounds.
The staff praised the group’s ethos and ‘very strong’ bond (helped by outside socialising) and called staff-prisoner relationships ‘excellent’ (e.g. first names & calling prisoners ‘residents’). CMs were ‘highly supportive’ and the SMT ‘visible’. They valued monthly full staff meetings and recognition (including a ‘caught doing good’ on the wing scheme) and weekly staff meetings on Ceiriog wing. They also rated the range of peer mentors and the impressive prisoner council.
The prisoners called staff-prisoner relations ‘excellent’, valued being ‘residents’ on first name terms, and felt ‘very safe’. They also rated visits and family visits (‘fantastic’, ‘comfy side-by-side seating’, ‘your own clothes: no bibs’). They praised the peer mentors, prisoner council, and thought VR reps, who can mediate, were a ‘key to safety’. They liked in-cell showers, phones (‘much cheaper here’), laptops (‘much better than kiosks’, ‘no queues’, ‘do it in your time’), and said the gardens and green spaces made a real difference, too.