HM Inspector of Prisons carries out an important role in ensuring that the level of service and support given by each prison meets a minimum standard, and serves to highlight weaknesses and failings within the entire prison system. It is a non political body, so in theory its reports are “even handed”, and based on fact not opinions or prejudices.
The Inspectorate has various types of inspections and reports, the most notable is the “Urgent Notification Process” where the Inspectors write to the Secretary of State raising major concerns about a specific prison. These letters, which are in the public domain, require the Government to respond within 28 days with a plan of action to remedy the issues identified by the Inspectors.
The usual timetable is that each prison is visited every 2-3 years, with the “high risk” establishments such as YOI being inspected more frequently (annually). A normal inspections lasts over a week, and is a major event in the life of a prison, taking a significant effort from the prison staff to meet the demands of the Inspectorate Team; governors and senior prison managers careers can turn on the outcomes.
In the present CV19 environment a normal prison inspection would be neither possible or prudent. The inspectorate has therefore announced on 30th July 2020 that it will launch “Scrutiny Visits”, which will focus on individual establishments, unlike “Short Scrutiny Visits” (!), which involved 2 or more establishments which share a similar profile.
To read any scrutiny visit report go the individual prison pages and follow the links from the “Inspections” page.