Drugs at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham are ‘too readily available’, report finds

Drugs and violence are rife at a new prison being run by inexperienced staff, according to a watchdog.

Drugs were “readily available” at HMP Berwyn, with nearly half of prisoners saying they were easy to get, a report said.

HMP Berwyn, dubbed a “super prison” opened in 2017 – and can hold up to 2,106 people.

Almost one in four inmates said they had developed a drug problem while at the two-year-old prison near Wrexham.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said in his findings that in just six months before the inspection, there were 574 incidents where force was used – which was “far higher” than in similar prisons – and use of batons was also high.

Christopher spoke of the availability of drugs in the prison – and said a lack of inexperienced prison officers posed a risk to safety.

The report said 22% of prisoners said they had been physically restrained by staff, significantly more than the 13% comparator.

Prison records indicate 90% of incidents involved full control and restraint.

Some 75% of inmates in March 2019 were from England.

Most staff at the jail were inexperienced and this was having a “negative impact on many aspects of prison life” but they were “doing their best”, Mr Clarke said.

The Ministry of Justice said the prison is putting plans in place to reduce violence and access to drugs.

Prison fence

Nearly a quarter of prisoners said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. The report said while some work had been done to reduce violence, delivery often lacked drive.

23%-Prisoners said they felt unsafe.


At the time of the inspection, 77% of officers had less than two years’ service and about a third had less than one year.

Overall, Mr Clarke said the prison had made a “good start” but better “oversight” and “co-ordination” was needed.

He added: “Some mistakes have been made and we identify some important weaknesses, but we also acknowledge the great effort that has been made to give this prison a good start.”

There had been no self-inflicted deaths at the jail and self-harm was found to be relatively low but those at risk who inspectors spoke to said they did not feel well cared for.

The report also found prisoners could spend up to £250 per week in the prison shop. This ”presented a real risk of extortion and bullying”, which the prison had no processes to manage.

The report concluded ”better oversight” was needed.

In August last year, The Prison Service said Governor Russell Trent had been removed from his post after allegations were made against him.

We met many managers and staff who were working hard to make a success of this new prison. Senior managers described themselves as being on a ”long journey” and we saw many policies and numerous plans.

What was needed was better oversight, a better coordination and more sustained delivery.


Director General for Probation and Wales, Amy Rees, said drug searches were being improved.

The new Governor in place since the inspection is already building on that progress, including through closer working with the police and better searching for illicit drugs, and introducing a new model that challenges poor behaviour and reduces violence.

We are gradually increasing the population, and since the inspection the prison has created 520 more workshop places so more offenders receive the excellent teaching inspectors found on their visit.


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