The extraordinary day-to-day work of prison officers at HMP Berwyn has been showcased at a national awards ceremony.

This year’s HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) in Wales awards – which took place on Tuesday - brought together staff and guests from across the country to celebrate the prison service’s unsung heroes and their outstanding work over the past 12 months. 

HMP Berwyn’s Physical Education team (Team of the Year award) and prison officer Erin Dunne (Changing Lives award) were among this year’s winners. 

Officer Dunne, 22, joined the prison service 18 months ago after completing a degree in criminology. 

She thought it would be the perfect vocation to build on her academic achievements whilst being able to help people. 

Her role at HMP Berwyn involves supporting prisoners who are suffering from a range of mental health issues. 

She said: “Before joining the prison service, my family were not keen on the idea of me working as a prison officer and tried to discourage me at first. 

"They can now see that I enjoy the job, which means they’re much more comfortable with it. 

“Being a prison officer isn’t for everyone, but it’s essential that anyone doing this role has resilience, patience, and empathy. 

"While there are challenging situations, I have found that building a rapport with prisoners often helps de-escalate many situations.

“You meet people from all different walks of life and get to help them better themselves. I also love that no two days are the same – it’s an extremely fast paced environment, but it means you are never bored and are constantly developing your skills.” 

Former rugby player Ricky Hyslop, 45, joined the prison service almost 20 years ago and has worked at HMP Berwyn since it was built. 

He progressed from working on the wings at his first establishment, to then joining the Physical Education (PE) department, which supports both staff and prisoners. 

At HMP Berwyn, Ricky manages a team of 18 PE instructors who deliver a whole range of activities including weekly park runs, football, indoor rowing, an over 60s gym, and remedial and exercise referral classes. 

The team also now runs weekly fitness sessions at two approved premises in north Wales to support former prisoners in their transition into the community.

He said: “My main interest in joining the prison service was the possibility of working within the PE department. 

"I was used to being part of a team full of people with all different skills and personalities, so starting my career as an officer was a great introduction to the service. 

"I spent three years on the wings before moving across to the PE department where I’ve stayed ever since.

“Here at HMP Berwyn, not only do we try to ensure the prisoners get access to the mandatory amount of exercise, but also so much more. 

"They must display positive behaviour in the rest of their prison life to take advantage of the PE facilities we have and activities and sporting competitions we run, so it’s an important lever for keeping prisoners motivated, positive and focused. I believe it can be such a strong force for change."