hm prison berwyn

HM Prison Berwyn

HM Prison Berwyn in Wrexham, Wales is the largest adult male prison in the United Kingdom. Opened in 2017, this massive complex was built to house over 2,000 inmates and operate with state-of-the-art efficiency. However, Berwyn’s path has not been without controversy and growing pains. Its development, operations, and recent scandals reveal much about the challenges of modern prison management.

Background on HMP Berwyn

Location and Opening

Berwyn is located in Wrexham County Borough in northeast Wales. Its construction was approved in 2014, with the first phase completed by February 2017. The £250 million complex was built with the goal of being a modern, rehabilitative, and cost-effective facility.

Design and Layout

Berwyn was designed to hold up to 2,100 adult male inmates, making it the largest prison in the UK. The design includes three housing blocks – Bala, Alwen, and Ceiriog. Different units were created for various inmate communities, including armed forces veterans.

Operational Capacity

Berwyn was built to be the most affordable Category C facility in Britain, with projected annual costs per inmate of £14,000. However, due to low inmate populations and other issues, real operating costs have been over £35,000 per prisoner per year.

See also  HM Prison Perth

Naming of the Prison

Selection of the Name

The name ‘Berwyn’ was announced in February 2016, coming from the nearby Berwyn mountain range. It was chosen from a shortlist that also included ‘Bridgeway’, ‘Marcher’, and ‘Dee Vale’.

Controversy over ‘Bala’ Name

While Berwyn came from the mountains, the name for one house – Bala – angered residents of the Welsh town Bala. A petition was started and gained over 400 signatures to change the name, but it remained unchanged.

Early Operations

Slow Population Growth

By mid-2018, Berwyn was still only half full, far short of the target inmate population. Its design requiring shared cells likely deterred transfers and intake.

Enforced Cell Sharing

To save costs, a high percentage of cells at Berwyn were designed for two inmates. But the norm in UK prisons had been one prisoner per cell, making enforced sharing unpopular.

Suspension of First Governor

Berwyn’s first governor, Russ Trent, was suspended in August 2018 over unspecified allegations. He was later cleared and reinstated, but the suspension added to early troubles.

Recent Controversies

Guards Jailed for Affairs with Inmates

In 2023, it was revealed three female guards at Berwyn had been jailed for prohibited relationships with inmates. This highlighted issues with staff misconduct and corruption.


While envisioned as an innovative and affordable prison, HMP Berwyn has faced growing pains like slow growth, cell sharing, scandals, and higher costs than projected. However, lessons from its first years can inform improved operations and oversight going forward. The path to successful rehabilitation requires learning from missteps.

See also  HM Prison Hatfield


Q: When did HMP Berwyn open?

A: HMP Berwyn opened in February 2017.

Q: How many inmates was Berwyn designed to hold?

A: Berwyn was designed with a capacity for 2,100 adult male inmates.

Q: Why was the first governor suspended?

A: Russ Trent was temporarily suspended over unspecified allegations in 2018 but cleared later.

Q: How many staff were jailed for inmate affairs?

A: In 2023 it was revealed 3 female guards had been jailed for illegal relationships.

Q: Where is HMP Berwyn located?

A: Berwyn is located in Wrexham County Borough in northeast Wales.

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