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Offenders 'wanting to reform' should visit super prison, police federation told

Seconded officer lifts the lid in tales from the inside

A stint in Britain’s ‘cushiest jail’ is the best place to set offenders onto the straight and narrow, according to rank and file officers.

Policing Europe’s second biggest prison has revealed that if a criminal “wishes to reform”, they should look no further than Wrexham’s super penal institution.

The claims by one of HMP Berwyn's dedicated law-enforcement team maintains “every crime imaginable” is being perpetrated there.

But PC Gary Edwards, writing in the North Wales Police Federation’s newsletter Your Voice, says his initial scepticism of the rehabilitation mantra at the ‘Shangri-La of slammers’ has been replaced by seeing convicts offered “every possible positive opportunity”.

PC Edwards accepted he originally found his indignation rising from the “pit of his stomach”, adding: “Years of endlessly working to put these people away to now discover the realities of prison life; hardly a punishment.”

He argued: “Believe me, I have battled with this cynicism since arriving last November. I pondered it over a cup of tea in the newly-established café where we are served by residents who bake and serve prize-winning pies.”

Prisoners have full access to a laptop as well as various opportunities to work and develop educationally with a variety of businesses and universities. They have a phone in their rooms rather than the traditional community version along with a shower and a flushing toilet.

The residents have access to various opportunities to work and develop educationally with a variety of businesses and universities.

But his cynicism tempered and mind-set changed, he added: “If a criminal wishes to reform, this is the place to do it. If they choose not to, they really only have themselves to blame.”

He sees this “new way of working” as one that other prisons and police forces will be keen to replicate

The officer, in an office shared by a sergeant and three detectives which is no bigger than a double cell without a window, also applauds the prison governors for their understanding of what the police require on a daily basis when investigating the crimes that are generated inside.

“Evidential avenues, such as access to residents’ phone data, visitor information and all manner of material is either accessible by us directly or a quick conversation away,” he noted.

“We also have full access to the prison and access to the keys. I can walk anywhere I want, although I tend not to whistle my way through the wings when the ‘residents’ are on association.

PC Edwards is concerned that the volume of work which the prison is currently generating is “over spilling” the capacity of the team and HMP Berwyn is only half full.

With a 1,083 prisoner total, the policing team is expecting the population to increase rapidly throughout the rest of the year.

PC Edwards added: “Without a doubt, extra resources from the police will be required, sooner rather than later.”

Meanwhile, prisoners could be handed the vote in Scotland as ministers unveiled plans for a new electoral franchise law.

But the Scottish government has concluded that plans will be held in abeyance until a consultation has been undertaken.

Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said the proposals demonstrated the SNP is “unable to give victims a meaningful place in the justice system”.

A court in Strasbourg ruled in 2004 that a blanket ban on British prisoners exercising the right to vote contravened the European Convention on Human Rights