8. In 1815 magistrates were given the responsibility
of inspecting prisons. The Gaols Act 1835 introduced prison inspectors
to advise local authorities. The Prisons Act 1878 created a national
prison system run by a Prison Commission which also had a duty
to inspect prisons and submit annual reports to Parliament. The
Prisons Act 1952 required the Prison Commissioners, or their officers,
inter alia, to:
9. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, established
by the Criminal Justice Act 1982, is a Crown appointment, on the
advice of the Justice Secretary, reporting directly to Ministers.
The post operates independently of Government and the services
10. HM Inspectorate of Prisons' key remit is to inspect
all prisons and young offender institutions in England and Wales,
and all UK immigration detention facilities, and report to relevant
Ministers on the treatment and conditions of detainees. The Inspectorate
also inspects a range of equivalent institutions and some in other
jurisdictions by invitation.
It also conducts studies into specific custodial issues, often
jointly with education, health and other criminal justice inspectorates.
The Chief Inspector works particularly closely with the Chief
Inspector of Probation to provide joint inspection of offender
management arrangements in prisons.
11. The Inspectorate's own statement of purpose is
to: ensure independent inspection of places of detention to report
on treatment and conditions and promote positive outcomes for
those detained and the public. The Inspectorate's key objectives
are to: inspect effectively and report on the treatment of prisoners
and detainees, and the conditions in which they are held; contribute
to policy, practice and performance debates concerned with the
treatment and conditions of prisoners and other detainees; deliver
effective joint work with other inspectorates, as required by
the respective Secretaries of State; refine the efficiency and
effectiveness of the inspection process; and develop joint criminal
justice planning, consultation and inspection arrangements.
12. The work of the Inspectorate supports the Ministry
of Justice's Departmental Strategic Objective 4 which aims for
"a more effective, transparent and responsive criminal justice
system for victims and the public". The Inspectorate also
supports Home Office objectives relating to immigration and policing.
Resources and workload
13. The Chief Inspector is supported by a deputy,
about 45 inspectors and other permanent staff and 11 fee-paid
inspectors and editors. In 2009-10, the total Inspectorate budget
was £4.2 million, of which 87% came from the Ministry of
Justice, 7% from the UK Borders Agency, 5% from the Home Office
and 1% from the Youth Justice Board.
14. There are over 135 prisons and young offender
institutions in England and Wales, currently holding over 84,000
people at a cost of about £2.2 billion per year. In addition
there are 15 immigration detention facilities in the UK with planned
capacity of nearly 4,500.
15. Inspections, full and short, currently total
about 90 a year, including follow-up work focusing on areas of
concern highlighted during earlier visits. Inspections may be
announced as part of a published programme, or unannounced. Extra
resources have recently been allocated for the latter following
two cases of challenging prisoners being transferred temporarily
from prisons due for inspection.
16. The prison population rose over 25%, from an
average of 66,300 in 2001 to 83,151 on 22 January 2010. The policies
of the two main parties both anticipate that numbers will continue
to grow and capacity will have to be provided through the building
of new prisons. In response to a recent parliamentary question,
the Prisons Minister said that the Ministry of Justice aimed to
increase capacity to 96,000 prison places by 2014, building 7,500
new places whilst closing up to 5,000 worn out and inefficient
places. The first phase of the programme would deliver 3,000 new
places and close 500.
17. The Chief Inspector is responsible for determining
how the work of the Inspectorate is best organised to provide
sufficient coverage of all places of detention within a reasonable
cycle agreed with Ministers, while ensuring that a focus on developing
or acute areas of concern is not lost.
18. Following statutory consultation on the Inspectorate's
proposed programme, an annual business plan sets out work to meet
its key objectives. The annual inspection programme is developed
independently of Ministry of Justice and Home Office plans and
targets. The priorities of the programme balance recent inspections
with the results of risk assessment. Priorities for thematic reviews
are a matter for the Chief Inspector informed by consultation,
tending to follow recurring themes and problems.
19. The Inspectorate undertakes inspections according
to its own methodology and published assessment criteria and standards
(termed "expectations"). These are informed by best
practice within the inspected bodies, referenced against international
human rights and penal norms. This methodology is documented and
governs how it will conduct inspection activities, assess evidence,
reach conclusions and communicate the outcomes of such activities.
All of the work of the Inspectorate is underpinned by its own
independently defined set of values. The main products of the
Inspectorate's work are inspection reports, all of which are published,
most of which include recommendations for action. Publication
is at the discretion of the Chief Inspector and, although presented
to the relevant Secretary of State, reports are not subject to
20. The Inspectorate does not have enforcement powers.
Dame Anne Owers DBE, the current Chief Inspector of Prisons, told
us that the job was much more about encouraging best practice
than monitoring compliance in a tick-box manner. She said that
over 95% of her recommendations were accepted, with evidence of
about two thirds being implemented on inspection follow-up.
5 The statutory provisions, person specification for
the role and the terms and conditions of the post are annexed
to this report. Back
Under the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, HMCIP inspects
prisons in Northern Ireland. By invitation, he or she also carries
out inspections in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Police
custody suites are inspected jointly with HMCI Constabulary (a
treaty obligation) and the Chief Inspector inspects the military
detention facility in Colchester and is developing criteria for
inspecting military detention elsewhere. Back
For example, Ofsted, Estyn, the Education and Training Inspectorate
(Northern Ireland), HM Inspectorate of Education (Scotland), the
Care Quality Commission, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the Regulation
and Quality Improvement Agency (Northern Ireland), the Royal Pharmaceutical
Society, the NHS Business Services Authority (Dental Services
Division) and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. The inspectorate
also works with the Audit Commission on Comprehensive Area Assessments. Back
Official Report, 11 November 2009, cols 483-4W Back
Applicants pack, post of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Ministry
of Justice, January 2010 Back