U.K. Prison Gives Its Convicts The Keys To Their Cell In A Bid To Foster A More ‘Respectful’ Environment

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Banged up behind bars, safely under lock and key, could soon be a thing of the past for convicts if a novel new experiment in a British prison takes hold and grows momentum.

The Daily Mail reports that the largest in England and Wales, HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, has become Britain’s first “respectful” jail. What this means, in theory, is that the inmates have been given keys to their own cells, and prison officers will now have to knock and wait patiently before entering the inner sanctum of the convict.

A spokesperson for HMP Berwyn said the new measure is part of a “rehabilitative” approach when it comes to dealing with offenders. As a result of such a move, prisoners will have more privacy and the ability to move around the jailhouse more freely. They will also be at liberty to lock themselves in their cell at any time if they feel the need for a bit of alone time.

However, under the “Knock First” policy, officers are still allowed to enter cells without knocking when it comes to searches and emergencies.

Cells at the $500 million prison are now called rooms, blocks and wings are called communities, and the prisoners are referred to as “men” in a bid to build a more domestic environment for the convicts who are provided with laptops to make their stay more bearable.

Prisoners in a prison
Featured image credit: Ezra ShawGetty Images

The prison accommodates prisoners who are not considered an escape risk but by the same token cannot be trusted in an open prison.

HMP Berwyn is the first of its kind in Britain and will be the blueprint for the design and operation of six new prisons built across the U.K. under the “Wellbeing in Prison Design” initiative.

The initiative borrows heavily from Scandinavian prison policy which is of the school of thought that taking an offender’s liberty away is punishment enough without forcing them to live in harsh conditions.

The “Wellbeing in Prison Design” reads, “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. 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.”