CONCERNS have been raised that drugs are "readily available" at Wrexham's prison, according to an independent report.

The first report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) into HMP Berwyn on Wrexham Industrial Estate has highlighted some concerns about the effect on men at the prison.

In a section focusing on the safety of men at the prison, the report states: "A local Violence Reduction Survey was conducted in January 2018.

"In response to a series of questions 81 per cent of the men who completed the survey said that they felt safe at Berwyn.

"However, that indicates almost 20 per cent who did not. Men identified drugs and resultant debt as being the most common reason for incidents of violence.

"Incidents involving use of force are currently higher than we would wish to see.

"However, reporting is diligent.

"A significant number (89 per cent) of frontline operational staff have less than two years experience, which impacts on their skills to de-escalate situations and prevent them from developing into incidents where force needs to be used."

Another concern raised in the report related to the heating system, individual rooms, blocks of rooms and over the Christmas period a complete failure of the heating and hot water system.

It stated: "For various technical reasons, that problem took five days to fix. The men were kept fully informed of the issues and of the steps that were being taken. They reacted with maturity and the prison continued to operate.

"The board is concerned that when men become frustrated and/or angry they can resort to damaging their accommodation. This is not acceptable."

There was praise in the report for achievements since the prison opened in February 2017, including the "enormous amount of work undertaken in establishing and developing support services" and the "excellent work undertaken by equality and diversity".

It states: "Men are treated fairly and with decency in Berwyn, with every effort made to accommodate those who find custody and the move towards rehabilitation particularly challenging.

"The setting up and operation of Berwyn is still work in progress, with the establishment working towards finding and maintaining the right balance between rehabilitation and security, between rewards and sanctions and between freedom and control, in order to make it an enduringly safe and rehabilitative prison."

"Despite all the good and successful work being undertaken on a daily basis, there are the ongoing challenges of finding and maintaining the right balance between rehabilitation and security, rewards and sanctions, freedoms and control and the board would assess these areas as ‘work in progress.’

"The board expresses serious concerns at the level of illicit drugs present in the establishment and would ask for all possible measures to be put in place to reduce this unacceptable situation.

"The lack of the promised work places and completion of the workshops has been an ongoing concern of the board and is still to be fully resolved."

In an exclusive interview with the Leader last week, the governor of HMP Berwyn Russ Trent said the aim was to make the prison a "hostile environment" to drug dealers.

He said: ""It's incredibly difficult when you're trying to build a community, when some parts of that community are members of serious organised crime groups.

"These groups make money from the misery caused by selling drugs to others.

"For other parts of this community, those who are addicted to these drugs, it is about providing treatment and support.

"We are recruiting a senior manager and part of their role will be to make supply incredibly difficult, and make it a hostile environment to people who want to supply drugs."