CELL sharing difficulties at HMP Berwyn is causing "significant challenges" for both prisoners and staff, it has been said.

An annual report published recently by the Wrexham prison's Independent Monitoring Board for March 2019 to February 2020 raised concerns about a number of matters.

These included a lack of rooms for meetings and interviews for prisoners, as well as the allocation of inmates to cells.

It explained: "As reported last year, the lack of rooms for meetings and interviews with prisoners is of serious concern and has not been addressed.

"It would appear that these facilities were in the original plans but were discontinued on, we believe, financial grounds.

"While this is already a serious concern, it will become even more serious as the establishment moves towards full complement."

On cells, the document adds: "Cell sharing is regularly raised as an issue by the prisoners, with staff, visitors, Board members on rota and the Board via applications.

"This also includes prisoners who are reduced to basic regime because they will not agree to share, and submit applications to this effect.

"However, the establishment cannot give what it does not have.

"Designing the prison with 70 per cent of rooms as double occupancy and 30 per cent as single occupancy causes significant challenges for both the prisoners and staff – especially given the high number of prisoners who are unable to share owing to cell sharing risk assessment requirements, medical conditions and various other individual issues in this category C establishment.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Sharing cells can be beneficial for mental health and stress levels.

"Anyone placed in a shared cell, designed for two people, is assessed to check their suitability.”

Regarding the cells, the service explained on arrival into custody, all prisoners’ suitability to share a cell is risk assessed.

This is based on individuals’ health concerns, offences and security information.

According to the Prison Service, many prisoners prefer to share a cell and there are benefits to some prisoners sharing for the positive impact it has on mental health and stress levels.

Shared cells at HMP Berwyn are designed for two prisoners. These all have toilets, showers and in-cell phones.

A spokesman added: "The reason prisoners remain housed in double cells during the pandemic is the same as that in the community – treating cellmates like a household unit.

"So, if one becomes symptomatic, they both self-isolate. This is in line with PHE (Public Health England) guidance."

The Prison Service also advised legal visits at HMP Berwyn are still being carried out through video calls where face to face visits are not possible.