Wrexham Prison has a reputation that is a world apart from what people expect from life behind bars. At times it has been considered one of the most comfortable prison establishments in the UK.

Last month North Wales Live reported on the trial of a prisoner held at HMP Berwyn who hid a mobile phone and drugs in his cell. However, readers failed to understand a particular part of the story.

The prisoner, from the Liverpool area, had an Xbox console in his cell. Beyond the fact that he had destroyed the game console to hide his contraband, he had every right to have it.

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It also got us thinking – what other ‘luxuries’ can prisoners get their hands on while locked up in the Wrexham-based facility? To find out, we filed an access to information request with the Department of Justice.

HMP Berwyn’s 20-page catalog contains a comprehensive list of items that the current Governor, Nick Leader, is said to have approved for prisoners. They range from musical instruments and gadgets to furnishings to personalize their cell.



A general view inside HMP Berwyn, Wrexham.

The men locked up in the Wrexham Industrial Estate facility follow an incentive program – leveled basic, standard and enhanced. This determines which items they can and cannot buy while in jail.

Those behind bars can earn money for these items by participating in prison activities. This includes work, education and training.

According to the latest Prisoner’s Pay document available online, prisoners in the UK earn at least £4 a week. However, this may vary from facility to facility and individuals may continue to earn more or friends and family may also offer to top up an inmate’s account with cash.

Below are some of the items you might not have realized prisoners could get their hands on:

Game consoles:

Not all Berwyn inmates can expect to get a console while locked up. In the catalog, they are only available to inmates on duty who are classified as “reinforced” residents.

Players who earn enough can choose from a variety of devices provided by Gema Records, including Xboxes and PlayStations. Nintendo fans won’t be able to opt for the new Switch model for their Cell – instead, they’ll have more nostalgic options, including a Game Cube or SNES Classic.

The full approved list includes:

  • Microsoft Xbox (without network adapter and associated cabling)
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Sony Playstation 1
  • Sony PlayStation 2 (without network adapter or cabling)
  • Nintendo Game Cube (without modem or broadband adapter or wiring)
  • Nintendo GameBoy
  • Nintendo GameBoy Color (without infrared port)
  • Nintendo GameBoy Advance
  • Nintendo GameBoy Advance SP
  • Nintendo Game Boy Micro
  • classic nintendo snes

Consoles also won’t have the ability to connect to the internet, the catalog tells prisoners. They will see their USB ports blocked.

What is a console with games for? Prisoners can have up to 30 games on disc, but you won’t find anyone playing Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, as 18+ rated games are absolutely not allowed.



Prisoners at HMP Berwyn could opt for a Gamecube to pass the time while locked up.
Prisoners at HMP Berwyn could opt for a Gamecube to pass the time while locked up.

Music and DVD Players:

If gaming isn’t their thing, all inmates can work their way up to getting a personal audio system. Anyone who chooses a stereo, CD or cassette player from the prison store signs a form pledging to keep noise levels reasonable.

Any CDs or tapes a prisoner’s device needs will come from their 30-disc allowance. A set of headphones is also allowed, but they cannot be wireless or powered by Bluetooth.

Enhanced inmates may want to purchase a DVD or Blu Ray player to keep in their room. They will be entitled to a choice of films, but these discs will come from any CDs or video games they have already purchased.

Hobby items:

Convicted felons will suddenly have plenty of free time to spend months or even years behind bars. What better time to start a hobby?

The most creative inmates can purchase art materials, including paints and canvases, as well as seedling or model-making kits. Musically minded men can choose one of the following instruments – a guitar, keyboard, recorder, flute or harmonica.

Health enthusiasts may want to go a little beyond the permitted exercise permitted by Berwyn staff. If they have the money, they can buy things like protein powder, weight training equipment, soccer equipment, and yoga mats.



HMP Berwyn on Wrexham Industrial Estate
HMP Berwyn on Wrexham Industrial Estate

Cell decorations:

Their cells now become homes for inmates. Sharing often, they may want to add a personal touch to the room, making it feel like their own space.

Any inmate can get a poster for their wall. However, they should be small enough to fit on the hall notice board (120cm x 60cm) and not contain any offensive slogans or content.

For upgraded residents, more options to customize their cell are available. They can buy things like alarm clocks, lamps, desk fans, and a choice of bedding to keep them warm at night.

Clothes:

Inmates can request a clothing package once or twice a year. This frequency depends on the length of time they will spend in prison as well as their level of behavior.

Prisoners can request up to seven pairs of pants – including jeans, tracksuit bottoms and shorts – and they will also have a rotation of 10 tops – including sweaters, t-shirts and shirts. They can complete their prison-approved look with up to three pairs of sneakers they can keep in their cell.

Most types of clothing and accessories have some form of restriction. Belt buckles must be of a certain size, and warm winter coats cannot be of certain colors.

Inmates are also given a full suit – but it’s not for everyday use. These are kept specifically for funerals and court appearances.

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