Daring to be different? Creating a new, large, rehabilitative prison

Kate Gooch1
1University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom,

In February 2017 HMP Berwyn became the first prison to open with the aim of becoming a ‘rehabilitation prison’. Situated in North Wales, it is the largest prison in the UK, with capacity to accommodate 2,106 men. In ‘daring to be different’, every element of opening and operation has been evaluated in light of the strategic aim of becoming a rehabilitative prison, underpinned by the ‘principle of normality’ (‘Mandela Rules’, United Nations, 2015) and an emphasis on ‘making big feel small’. The rehabilitative vision goes beyond a desire to offer appropriate programmes and interventions to consider: innovations in staff recruitment and training, modifications to the prison’s aesthetic appearance, strategic operational delivery, organisational linguistics, operational decision making, social relationships, family and community engagement and partnership work. Yet, while the importance of rehabilitation is inarguable, the idea of a ‘rehabilitative prison’ is highly contested. This paper draws on a unique empirical study of Berwyn to consider the challenges, opportunities and complexities in designing, building, opening and operating a new, large and rehabilitative prison.


Dr Kate Gooch is a Lecturer in the University of Leicester Law School specialising in prisons and imprisonment. Building on her doctoral research on young people in penal custody, she has continued to undertake ethnographic research in prisons, focusing on issues including violence and organised crime in prisons, physical restraint, self-harm, self-inflicted deaths in custody and aspects of the legal process concerning children, such as the interrogation and detention of child suspects. Most recently, she has been researching the planning processes and opening of a new large and rehabilitative prison in England & Wales, producing a series of thematic reports for policy and practice as well as several academic publications


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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