Prison where 3 guards had flings with inmates is 'UK's cushiest jail'

Prison where three female guards had flings with inmates is ‘UK’s cushiest jail’ where criminals can have phones, send emails, and even got the keys to their own ‘rooms’ (not ‘cells’)

  • 3 female guards jailed for flings with inmates at HMP Berwyn, Wrexham, Wales
  • Jennifer Gavan, Ayshea Gunn, and Emily Watson, jailed within the last 3 years
  • The category C resettlement and training prison accommodates 2,100 men
  • Criminals get phones in their rooms – and can also send emails and voicemails

A ‘modern’ prison where three female guards had flings with inmates allows prisoners to have phones in their rooms, send emails, and even have their own laptops. 

Shamed prison staff Jennifer Gavan, 27, Ayshea Gunn, 27, and Emily Watson, 26, have all been jailed within the last three years for sparking relationships with prisoners at £250 million super prison HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, North Wales, which houses Category C adult male offenders.

Staff at the prison, which opened in 2017, have now been undergoing training in a bid to tackle corruption at the 2,100-capacity jail.

The prison, previously dubbed ‘UK’s cushiest jail’ by an MP, gives inmates access to a wide range of education and training services, vocational qualifications, access to a full-sized sports hall, weights and fitness room and outdoor pitches, and several methods of being able to communicate with friends and family in the outside world. 

£250 million super prison HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, North Wales, which houses Category C adult male offenders

The prison was previously dubbed ‘UK’s cushiest jail’ by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone

The prison aims is to help them ‘increase their chances of employment when they return to their communities.’ 

‘Based on a campus design, at HMP Berwyn’s centre is an industry building housing 12 workshops where men make products such as furniture, or work in the on-site call centre or DHL distribution centre,’ the HM Prison and Probation Service says.

‘Individuals can earn qualifications in areas such as manufacturing operations and customer service, while working.

‘A state-of-the-art resettlement hub provides an opportunity for individuals to meet work coaches and access training to prepare them for employment. Training in a variety of trades and professions including bricklaying, joinery, plastering and industrial cleaning is available. 

‘Plus, men have access to a range of vocational qualifications such as digital media, business enterprise, and information and communications technology (ICT).

‘HMP Berwyn’s men also have access to a broad programme of learning opportunities – from basic skills such as literacy, Welsh and numeracy, to vocational qualifications and higher learning.’

A prisoner eating a meal in a cell area at HMP Berwyn on March 15, 2017 in Wrexham, Wales (stock image)

A cell at HMP Berwyn in a photo from 2017 – rooms all have a phone for outgoing calls 

Prisoners get access to a full-sized sports hall, weights and fitness room

In 2019 it was reported that prisoners were to be given keys to their own cells as a reward for good behaviour.

Governors would be allowed to let prisoners to lock their own cells for more privacy under a new incentive scheme, the Ministry of Justice said at the time. But officers can override the ‘privacy lock’ whenever they need to, The Times reported.

MailOnline has contacted the MoJ for comment.  

Prisoners have phones in their rooms and are able to make calls at any time – but phones do not accept incoming calls. Prisoners must make their own calls and have to buy credits to do this. 

They are allowed to phone anyone named on their list of friends and family which is checked by security when they first arrive.

Inmates are also able to exchange voicemails using the prison’s service.

‘Officers may listen to phone calls as a way of preventing crime and helping keep people safe,’ the government website says. 

Video calling friends and family is even an option – with visitors who are added to the approved ‘contact list’. 

Prisoners are also able to send and receive emails – which are monitored by staff – with friends and family able to attach photos for an additional charge. 

Inmates at the prison which has 2,100 men also have outdoor pitches they can use

The ‘cells’ are instead described as ‘rooms’ on the official government website

HMP Berwyn has a service which allows people to send prisoners money. They can also receive a clothing parcel one or twice a year depending on their sentence time and behaviour. These parcels must be given to staff during a visit and are opened and checked by officers.

Friends and families of prisoners are allowed to send them books directly or can order books from approved retailers, which source and send the books on to prisoners.

The 2,100 men who live at the prison are put in either single or shared rooms, which all have a shower, toilet, sink and a phone.

Each prisoner is given a laptop for making applications, ordering things from the canteen and booking visits. They can also use it to access a hub which has educational materials, information, news and entertainment.

Prisoners have access to a full-sized sports hall, weights and fitness room and outdoor pitches. 

Staff at the prison have been undergoing training in a bid to tackle corruption at the 2,100-capacity jail

There is a fitness programme which includes team sports and classes – which can lead to accredited qualifications.

Berwyn Prison has a diverse, multi-faith chaplaincy team providing support to prisoners and all religious festivals are catered for.

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone previously said: ‘The public will be horrified that prisons are being turned into glorified holiday camps. No wonder it has got the reputation as Britain’s cushiest prison.’ 

In 2016 MailOnline reported on politeness rules which were endorsed by then Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who said they would help rehabilitate offenders.

Prison governors were told they should call convicts ‘men’ instead of ‘prisoners’ and refer to the cells as ‘rooms’.

Guidance on Berwyn Prison on the official government page still calls cells ‘rooms’ now. 

Gavan was jailed for eight months in December after smuggling a mobile phone behind bars for prisoner Alex Coxon, 25.

A court heard she sent photos of herself to the inmate on Snapchat and kissed him during the relationship between April and July 2020.

Ex prison officer Jennifer Gavan, left, was jailed for eight months after she smuggled a mobile phone into the prison for her lover Alex Coxon, right. She sent Coxon intimate messages and photographs over Snapchat

Prison officer Ayshea Gunn, left, was jailed for one year at Mold Crown Court in 2019 after having an affair with dangerous criminal Khuram Razaq, right, at HMP Berwyn in North Wales

Emily Watson, left, was jailed for one year after she performed a sex act on inmate John McGee

Gavan, of Llay, Wrexham, pleaded guilty to misconduct in public at Mold Crown Court after she accepted £150 to bring in the mobile phone.

The relationship came just one year after fellow officer Ayshea Gunn, 27, had a fling with ‘dangerous’ inmate Khuram Razaq, 29.

The criminology and psychology graduate made numberous sexual phone calls to Razaq while he was serving a 12 year sentence for conspiracy to rob.

A search of Gunn’s bedroom revealed snaps of the pair kissing and hugging also with mobile phone pictures taken in his cell.

A court heard Gunn also smuggled in a pair of knickers for the prisoner inside her bra.

She was jailed for one year at Mold Crown Court in 2019.

Fellow officer Emily Watson, 26, was jailed for one year at the same court for performing a sex act on an inmate in his cell.

Watson spent so much time with John McGee at the prison that staff soon became suspicious and launched an investigation.

Mold Crown Court heard they had been alone together in his cell on three occasions, when she performed a sex act on him twice and had intercourse once.

Watson, of Huddersfield, was jailed for one year in April 2019.

A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘The overwhelming majority of Prison Service staff are hardworking and dedicated and we will not hesitate to punish those who break the rules.

‘Over 500 members of staff at HMP Berwyn have undertaken corruption prevention training in the last 18 months and our enhanced security is protecting the prison against attempts to smuggle illicit items inside.’

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