The new super prison in Wrexham, HMP Berwyn, will soon take in its first inmates, but what is it and why is it causing such a stir within the media?
What is it?
HMP Berwyn is a new super prison located in Wrexham in Wales. It is a Category C and is the largest prison in England and Wales, holding 2,106 prisoners (3 blocks with 700 men in each). It cost £250 million to build but, surprisingly, will be the cheapest prison in England and Wales, costing just £14,000 per head including overheads. HMP Berwyn is the first public sector prison to open since the 1990s, meaning all eyes are on it to see how it will perform. It is the first of nine new super prisons that are all expected to open by 2020.
The new governor, Russell Trent, has lots of prior experience within the prison service. He previously worked at HMP Brinsford, which has a reputation for being one of the more challenging establishments, and has managed to affect some positive change and improvements within the prison. He was actually chosen to name HMP Berwyn, which was inspired by a Welsh mountain range.
Whilst there has been some uneasiness amongst local residents in Wrexham, it is hoped that this establishment will boost the local economy by £23 million per year and will create up to 1,000 jobs, both around the prison and within the prison service.
What is its purpose?
One of the key differences between the Wrexham super prison and other, older establishments is the strong rehabilitative focus of the prison. It has been built with rehabilitation in mind with a key goal being to work with offenders to reduce their likelihood of reoffending. On site facilities include a health and wellbeing centre, an education block, workshops, a library, a sports hall and a multi-faith area.
Education and training will be provided by Novus Cambria (a partnership between education provider, Novus, and Coleg Cambria in Wales). They have expanded the subjects on offer to provide a wide variety of opportunities that could appeal to different people. As well as offering traditional academic and vocational subjects, there will also be opportunities to train in horticulture, libraries, recycling unit, wellbeing centre, industrial workshops, kitchens, gyms, and more. They even have the opportunity to take Welsh classes.
The general atmosphere of the prison will also breed a more rehabilitative culture. Staff are not to refer to the inmates as ‘prisoners’ or ‘offenders’. Instead they will be ‘men’ and ‘cells’ will be ‘rooms’. Staff are also encouraged to knock before entering an inmates room, to build trust and mutual respect. The men will design their own, individual system of rewards and punishments and, as research has showed that strong links with friends and family whilst serving time decreases the likelihood of reoffending, may be allowed telephones at night to wish their children and families goodnight. Prison service staff will work with offenders to build a positive environment that aims to support and reform.
It is hoped that both the large size of the establishment and these rehabilitative methods will reduce overcrowding and some of the pressure within the prison system. With the recent introduction of the new prisons and courts bill that is placing a significant emphasis on rehabilitation and reform, everyone will be monitoring the progress of HMP Berwyn. Hopefully it will set the tone for success, change and rehabilitation for the new prisons that are set to open over the coming years. If it is successful, it will have a dramatic, positive impact on the prison service, prisons and those working with offenders.