THE governor of Wrexham’s prison has hailed the progress of the first 18 months since it opened.

Russ Trent took the reigns at HMP Berwyn on Wrexham Industrial Estate when it opened its doors in February 2017, having been the project director who oversaw its development.

With an emphasis on rehabilitation and education rather than punishment, the prison is growing towards a capacity for 2,106 men, as the largest single new-build prison in the United Kingdom.

Facilities include an education block, workshops, sports hall, multi-use games areas, a health and wellbeing centre, and multi-faith centre.

Mr Trent has reflected on the achievements of the last year-and-a-half, including finishing the project on time and under budget.

He said: “Recruitment has been a big success.

“We have got in caterers, health workers, lecturers, teachers, a huge number of prison officers and managers.

“That level of recruitment was a real challenge and has been our number one success, finding people with the right values, and people from the local area.

“The second success was opening on time and budget.

“A huge amount of effort went in from my project team to meet a really stretching target, set many years beforehand.

“To come in under budget on the opening shows tremendous value for money and we have delivered it for taxpayers as we always said we would.”

He added: “The speed at which we’ve grown is another success.

“I spent two years learning lessons from other prison openings across the world.

“If you do it too quickly with staff who are not yet experienced, then operational difficulties will happen and it takes a decade or two to recover.

“The control rate of our ‘ramp up’ makes sure we are limiting our risks and keeps everyone safe.

“Our relationship with North Wales Police, the local courts, and the Crown Prosecution Service allows us to take an incredibly robust approach when crimes are recorded within the prison, such as harassment of staff, criminal damage, drug possession.

“Men need to know they will be challenged and held account for their behaviour.

“We have achieved our ambition of a rehabilitative culture, with a staff and environment of those who believe people have the capacity to change.

“My honest belief, and research supports this, is the best way to change behaviour is to catch someone when they are being good rather than bad.

“It is accepted now that to change children’s behaviour, smacking is not the way.

“We need to think of this in the wider context of the criminal justice system.

“I still believe the best way is to offer education, vocational training and the ability to build social capital, so they can return to society and their family’s - get everything in the right order so when men are released they become respectable citizens of the future.

“All the people who work here understand how we change people for the better.

“It has been a learning journey to understand how we balance the vision of rehabilitation with the realism of risk.

“Berwyn is a journey which will last a couple of centuries and we are still in the early part of the introduction end.

“We are nowhere near the end of the first chapter and so far it is looking really good and there is lots going on.

“There are a huge amount of challenges ahead and we are going to have to work through them.”