THE governor of Usk and Prescoed Prison paid tribute to his staff's hard work yesterday after the jail was rated one of the best in England and Wales.

As the Argus reported yesterday, this is the first time a prisons league table has been published, and Usk and Prescoed is in the top tier. The prison was also one of just five to be awarded the status of high performing prisons.

Phil Morgan, who became governor in May this year, said: "It's a wonderful start to my career at Usk, but it's not my work.

"I'm delighted the staff have had recognition for the work they've done over a long period of time.

"We knew we were performing well, but it's still nice to have that confirmed in the tables.

"I think the staff are very hard-working, reliable, and proud of their establishment.

"It starts from the bottom up. Everybody without exception wants to contribute to the success of the prison. It's a real team effort."

And Prisons Director General Phil Wheatley said: "I am pleased that five prisons have been awarded high performing prison status. "This sets a clear benchmark for all other establishments to strive towards."

As well as achieving special status, Usk and Prescoed was one of 12, out of the 138 prisons assessed, to make it into the top tier of the league table.

It is classed as performance level four, which means it is exceptionally high performing and consistently meets or exceeds its targets.

The prison also has no significant operating problems and achieves significantly more than similar establishments with similar resources. The prison is divided in two.

Usk is a category C jail, has a maximum capacity of 250 prisoners and deals with predominantly sex offenders.

The second site is at Prescoed, which takes up to 170 category D prisoners - 150 adults and 20 young offenders. This is an open prison and has its own farm.

A new prison wing was opened last month in memory of former governor Ray Comber.

Mr Comber was governor from 1998 until his death on New Year's Eve last year.