Posted: Tue 6th Sep 2022

HMP Berwyn competently run but improvement needed and “plagued” by staff shortages inspectors say

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Sep 6th, 2022

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Inspectors have found a strong leadership team provided decent outcomes at a North East Wales prison but improvement was needed.

HMP Berwyn on the industrial estate is the largest prison in the UK, opened in 2017 and holds 1,835 men.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that efforts to reduce violence were successful in creating a safer prison than a previous inspection, “but levels of violence remained too high.”

They also found the rate of self-harm was also high, “but leaders had responded to this and it had been falling for the last six months.”

Data on self-harm was collected but “not used effectively” to understand the drivers behind self-harm, inspectors found.

During the inspection in May, inspectors found that prisoners continued to spend “far too long behind their doors.”

While full-time workers could be unlocked for about nine hours a day, the inspectors said that most prisoners worked part-time or were unemployed and had much less time out of cell.

“There were insufficient work and education places for the population, and the prisoners who did have places often did not attend classes regularly enough.”

“More needed to be done to ensure that the prison was fulfilling its role as a training establishment.” HM Inspectorate of Prisons said.

Inspectors said that staff shortages “plagued the offender management unit” which meant existing prison offender managers had high caseloads and not enough contact with prisoners.

Public protection phone and mail monitoring had not been carried out for many of those posing a significant risk to the public.

“However, work to support resettlement, including finding employment and housing, was very good, and there were plans to expand this work.”

Cell in first night centre

Cell in first night centre

A range of areas are discussed in the report, including the reception and first night process.

The report states, “Many prisoners spent three hours or more in reception before being moved to the first night cells, which was too long. In our survey, only 23% of prisoners said they spent less than two hours in reception compared with 49% in similar prisons.

“The design of the reception area enabled multiple prisoners to be processed at the same time and we saw no apparent reasons for the delay. Data had been collected to identify the scale of the delays but had not yet been analysed.

“n our survey, only 37% of prisoners said that their cell on the first night was clean compared with 85% at the previous inspection. There were no curtains and toilet screens in many of the first night cells and some had graffiti on the walls, including some dated 2020. This was particularly disappointing as the condition of first night cells was highlighted in a recommendation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in 2021 following a self-inflicted death.”

Security findings include a survey where 31% of prisoners said it was easy to get illicit drugs in the prison compared with 48% at the previous inspection, “Measures had been put in place since the previous inspection to deter and detect the entry of illicit items, including netting over the yards, a body scanner and the scanning and photocopying of incoming mail. However, mandatory drug testing, which had been suspended during the pandemic, had not yet restarted and leaders had little reliable data on drug use.”

There is praise for cross working on the topic of security, “Effective joint working with the police helped to manage the large number of prisoners from organised crime groups. A dedicated corruption prevention manager investigated allegations of misconduct or illegal conduct by staff and we saw evidence of successful and ongoing prosecutions and disciplinary action.”

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Leadership was strong. The governor had been in post since 2019 and was highly experienced.”

“He made himself visible, and his energy was setting the tone in the prison.”

“In particular, the governor had approached recruitment and retention creatively and ensured it was led at a senior level. However, there continued to be staff shortages, which affected the delivery of some key services in health care, purposeful activity, and resettlement and release.”

Mr Taylor added: “Berwyn is a competently run prison. Outcomes were either reasonable or improving and with the capable leadership we observed, there is every reason for confidence about the prison’s immediate future.”

The full report can be found here.

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