Prisoners at British jail HMP Berwyn allowed to unlock their cells and guards must knock before entering
Prisoners at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham have been allowed to lock and unlock their own cells and the guards are required to knock before entering the cells in Britain's biggest jail, according to reports.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said that the move was made in an effort to allow inmates to have more privacy when they wanted time alone. HMP Berwyn, in a statement, said that the move is a "rehabilitative" approach to offenders and that prisoners thus are given more privacy, with the ability to come and go from their cells as they wish. They are also permitted to lock themselves in at any time, according to reports.
The "knock first" policy is reportedly aimed at creating a respectful environment for prisoners, however, officers can still enter cells without knocking for emergencies and searches. The £250 million prison, in its approach to create a more domestic environment, has renamed cells and rooms and prisoners are referred to as "men," The Daily Telegraph reported.
The inmates in the prison are reportedly provided with laptops, and blocks and are now called "communities." The prison holds category C offenders, who are "unlikely to try to escape" but cannot be trusted in an open prison. The Royal Institute of British Architects and the Ministry of Justice laid out the prison's new approach in a report titled Wellbeing in Prison Design, which looks at the design and operation of six new prisons to be built across the UK.
The Berwyn prison takes from a Scandinavian prison policy, which is of the view that taking away an offender's liberty is punishment enough without them having to deal with harsh conditions.
"Being given the possibility to personalize their own environments has a wide range of benefits for the health and well-being of people in custody, helping to create a sense of place and identity. Allowing men in custody to control atmospheric conditions like opening windows or ventilators, controlling heating... can alleviate negative well-being impacts of poor atmospheric conditions and generate a sense of self-efficacy," the report states.
"Observational evidence from Berwyn supports the concept that giving people in custody control over their spaces also results in them taking care of and respecting their space," it adds.
The director of the Victims' Rights Campaign, Harry Fletcher, however, was not very pleased with the approach adopted by the prison. It’s right that prisoners should be treated with dignity but giving them their own keys and knocking gives inmates who are devious the opportunity to hide illicit contraband, phones or drugs," he said.