AN MP has called for a "complete overhaul" of Wales's prisons, citing a ‘staffing crisis’ at HMP Berwyn.

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, criticised the UK Government for being “oblivious” to the situation the Wrexham prison.

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP raised the plight of ‘exhausted and burnt out’ staff with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation, Edward Argar MP during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday.

She 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.

The 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.

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.

“Staff also complain of an experience gap with the more experienced staff exhausted and burnt out.

The Leader: HMP BerwynHMP Berwyn (Image: Staff)"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 per cent 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.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The latest figures and inspections show Welsh prisons are performing well and we are embarking on the biggest prison-expansion programme since the Victorian era - creating an additional 20,000 modern places to rehabilitate offenders and cut crime.

"The Welsh public prison workforce grew by nearly 100 officers in the year to 30 September 2023.

“We are also investing millions to provide temporary accommodation for those at risk of becoming homeless on release to help them turn their lives around.”

The spokesman also pointed out that as a result of efforts across recruitment and retention, Berwyn has seen an improvement in its resourcing position amongst Band 3-5 Prison Officers, with a 11.3 per cent increase in the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff in post from between September 2022 and September 2023 (from 382 to 425).