What is Berwyn Prison Like?
What is Berwyn Prison Like? A Comprehensive Overview
Located in the UK, HMP Berwyn stands as the nation’s inaugural publicly managed “super-prison,” designed with the capacity to house nearly 2,200 inmates when running at full steam. By summer of 2022, this state-of-the-art facility was home to 1,835 individuals. Unique in its approach, these incarcerated individuals are not called ‘prisoners’ but rather “men.” Each is assigned to a twin-bedded room, with landings accommodating 44 such spaces. To keep them connected with the outside world, rooms are fitted with phones that allow outgoing calls to predetermined, prison-approved numbers.
From a bird’s-eye view, HMP Berwyn seems promising with its facilities and infrastructure. An inmate’s perspective from a recent visit suggests that with adequate staffing, HMP Berwyn could potentially be the best-equipped prison facility in the UK. He appreciated the diverse fitness and sports amenities available, which include a top-tier gym and facilities for rugby, football, and cricket. Moreover, the staff’s support for newcomers and the camaraderie between inmates make the transition smoother for those new to the prison environment.
However, staffing remains a significant hurdle. Governor Nick Leader highlighted a shortfall of 117 positions from the authorized 730, mostly pertaining to operational prison officer roles. This staffing issue hampers the prison’s ability to carry out innovative and extra-curricular activities.
What is Berwyn Prison Like?
A glimpse into a typical weekday at HMP Berwyn reveals a structured routine, starting with the morning unlock at 7.30am. Activities for the inmates range from job duties, exercise, cell maintenance, visits, disciplinary procedures, to health-related appointments. While the evening is generally quiet, some inmates benefit from gym sessions and video visits, allowing them to connect with family or friends unable to visit in person.
Yet, not all reviews about Berwyn are glowing. A former inmate, going by the pseudonym Dave, dubbed it the worst prison he’s experienced. He pointed out issues related to mental health support, claiming that delays in medication provision led to severe consequences. Dave also highlighted the prevalence of the drug spice within the prison walls and raised concerns about the young age and inexperience of the staff.
HMP Berwyn comprises three distinct houses: Alwen, Bala, and Ceiriog. These are further segmented into communities designed for specific inmate populations, such as general inmates, lifers, enhanced prisoners, veterans, those with mental health needs, vulnerable prisoners, and inmates on resettlement or release on temporary licence (ROTL). Each community offers a different level of support and structure, ensuring that the diverse needs of the prison population are met.
In summary, HMP Berwyn, with its modern infrastructure and approach to inmate management, holds the potential to set new standards for prisons in the UK. Yet, like any sizable institution, it faces challenges, particularly in staffing and maintaining order. As the UK’s first public “super-prison”, Berwyn will undoubtedly serve as a model, for better or worse, for future prison projects.