‘Staffing crisis’ at HMP Berwyn raised in Parliament
Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has criticised the UK Government for being “oblivious” to the “staffing crisis” at HMP Berwyn.
The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP raised the plight of ‘exhausted and burnt out’ staff at HMP Berwyn with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation, Edward Argar MP during a Westminster Hall debate.
Ms Saville Roberts said that despite the UK Government claiming in 2015 that HMP Berwyn would play a crucial role in ‘being a regional prison serving the north-west of England, prisoners from 75 English local authorities outside of north-west England were also being held at HMP Berwyn in December 2022. 62% of Berwyn’s population came from outside of Wales in 2022.
High prisoner numbers have an adverse effect on staff morale, according to Ms Saville Roberts. She said that the practice of ‘detached duty’ which sees staff sent from prisons such as Swansea and Hull to make up for shortfalls was not a “sustainable solution”.
The Plaid Cymru MP said that the “shocking” data unveiled by the Wales Governance Centre was grounds for a “complete overhaul” and called for the full devolution of justice powers to Wales, in order to integrate probation and prisons policy with health, housing and social policy.
An independent report by HMP Berwyn’s Independent Monitoring Board in September described staffing shortages as “the biggest destabilising factor in the prison.”
Speaking in Westminster Hall, Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “Staff retention is a significant problem in HMP Berwyn. Staff from other prisons – from as far afield as Swansea to Hull – are being sent there to make up for shortfalls. Detached duty as this is known is expensive; it’s not a long-term answer; these are not officers who know the prisons they’re working with. It is not a sustainable solution.”
She added: “Staff also complain of an experience gap with the more experienced staff exhausted and burnt out. Let’s recall that the Prison Officers Association have long been saying that 68 is too late for officers to retire. We lose people because they can’t take anymore. As Berwyn staff are being brought in from everywhere, so also are their prisoners. This is a prison that was meant to serve local populations, including from the north-west of England. We were told that was the intention. However, Berwyn has housed prisoners from 75 English local authorities outside this area since it opened in 2017. 62% of its population came from outside of Wales in 2022.”
During his response, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation said: “The largest Welsh prison, HMP Berwyn, as the Hon. Lady has highlighted, which can house 2,000 inmates, does not have any prisoners held in crowded accommodation. It’s all double cells which have been purposely built and designed to hold two prisoners safely and in decent conditions. We do recognise, however, that in line with the current pressures across our entire adult male custodial estate, there are relatively high levels of crowding in some Welsh prisons, though that it not specific or unique to Wales. That’s why the Lord Chancellor set out the decisive action we are taking to alleviate this in his statement to the House last month.”
Speaking after the debate, Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “I was disappointed that the Prisons Minister seemed completely oblivious to the staffing crisis at HMP Berwyn, failing to address those concerns in his response today. We know that staff are burnt out which has an adverse effect on the running of the prison. The Minister has agreed to meet me directly, so I look forward to raising these pressing concerns again.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.