Prisons in Wales
Prisons in Wales
Prisons in Wales,
In Wales, the prison system has evolved over time to accommodate the changing nature of criminal justice and societal needs. Presently, six male prisons are operational in the country, with a total capacity to house around 5,000 inmates. These establishments include:
- HMP Berwyn
- HMP Cardiff
- HMP & YOI Parc
- HMP Swansea
- HMP Usk & Prescoed
Prisons in Wales
Since 2006, the responsibility for healthcare in public sector prisons has been entrusted to the Welsh Government. Public sector prison health services have been provided by NHS Wales, with delivery overseen by the local Health Boards. Notably, HMP & YOI Parc is unique as a private institution, with primary healthcare commissioned by HMPPS in Wales.
Historical Background: Historically, the Welsh didn’t imprison individuals as a form of punishment for crimes during the medieval era. While early Welsh and marcher-lord castles had dungeons, they were primarily for holding political prisoners or hostages, not necessarily for criminals. Before the 17th century, the Welsh penal system leaned more towards fines, corporal punishments, and executions.
However, in the early modern era, holding facilities appeared primarily to detain those awaiting trial or debtors. By the Tudor period, the state empowered magistrates to establish correction houses to punish minor offenders and reform vagrants.
By the 18th century, facilities more recognisable as modern-day prisons started emerging in places like Aberystwyth, Bangor, and Beaumaris. Notably, in his seminal 1777 work “State of the Prisons,” reformer John Howard highlighted the deplorable conditions of two Welsh jails: Caernarfon county gaol and Swansea town gaol. Many of these early prisons were makeshift, with some, like Haverfordwest prison, constructed within ruined castles. The quality and condition of many of these facilities left much to be desired.
This situation persisted until 1878 when prison administration in Wales was nationalised, bringing about improved conditions and the consolidation of prisons. This development led to the closure of several smaller, inefficient prisons and the establishment of larger, centralised facilities.
An interesting note in the timeline was the absence of a prison in northern Wales until 2017. Before this, Welsh prisoners from the north were typically incarcerated in English prisons, particularly in Liverpool. While discussions took place in 2009 for a prison in Caernarfon, the proposal never materialised. However, the UK government announced in 2013 the construction of a £250 million ‘super prison’ in Wrexham, known as HMP Berwyn, which began operations in February 2017.
In the UK, prisoners are provided with basic necessities, but they also have the option to purchase additional items using their personal funds. The prison’s canteen or shop is the primary place where prisoners can buy these items. Here’s a breakdown of what UK prisoners commonly spend their money on:
Modern-Day Prisons: The five primary prisons in Wales are:
- HMP Berwyn: Opened in 2017, it serves as a Category C men’s prison in Wrexham and stands as the UK’s largest, boasting a capacity of 2,106 inmates. It’s regarded as a model institution for the Prison Service.
- HMP Usk & Prescoed: Established in 1844 and 1939 respectively, Usk is a Category C men’s prison with a satellite site in Prescoed, a Category D men’s open prison.
- HMP Cardiff: Founded in 1832, it’s a Category B men’s prison.
- HMP & YOI Parc: Opened in 1997, it’s both a Category B men’s prison and Young Offenders Institution. Located in Bridgend, it remains Wales’ only private prison, managed by G4S.
- HMP Swansea: Dating back to 1861, it oscillates between Category B and C for male prisoners.
It’s noteworthy that Wales lacks dedicated facilities for women and Category A offenders, necessitating their confinement in English prisons.
Administrative Overview: The prisons in Wales operate under the purview of His Majesty’s Prison Service. This entity is a segment of the HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), an executive agency under the Ministry of Justice responsible for England and Wales. The primary goals of the Welsh prison system are: secure confinement, reducing re-offending risks, and maintaining prisons that are safe, humane, and lawful.
The modern-day prison landscape in Wales reflects its storied past, having evolved from rudimentary establishments to sophisticated institutions that aim to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates into society.