HM Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMI Prisons)

The Chief Inspector of Prisons reports directly to the Justice Secretary on conditions in prisons and the treatment of prisoners in England and Wales and other matters as directed by the Justice Secretary. The Inspectorate also reports to the Home Secretary on conditions and treatment in all places of immigration detention in the United Kingdom. In addition, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons is invited routinely to inspect the Military Corrective Training Centre, Colchester and prisons in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Inspectorate also inspects police custody in England and Wales with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, and offender management arrangements in prison custody with HMI Probation. The Inspectorate’s work constitutes an important part of the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment: to have in place regular independent inspection of places of custody.

Statement of purpose:

To ensure independent inspection of places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.


The work of HM Inspectorate of Prisons is informed by five value statements, that:

  • independence, impartiality and integrity are the foundations of our work
  • the experience of the detainee is at the heart of our inspections
  • respect for human rights underpins our expectations
  • we embrace diversity and are committed to pursuing equality of outcomes for all
  • we believe in the capacity of both individuals and organisations to change and improve, and that we have a part to play in initiating and encouraging change.

The inspection programme:

Prisons are inspected at least once every five years, although we expect to inspect most every two to three years. Some high-risk establishments may be inspected more frequently, including those holding children and young people. Other types of custodial sectors have different inspection cycles. The inspection of facilities is predicated on a dynamic risk assessment, taking into account issues such as time since the last inspection, type and size of the establishment, significant changes to the establishment or changes in leadership, and intelligence received.

The majority of inspections are full and unannounced, assessing progress made since previous inspections and undertaking in-depth analysis.

In exceptional circumstances, and on the basis of risk, some inspections will be announced and the prison will be informed in advance of the visit. On our unannounced inspections, the inspection team visits without notifying the establishment in advance. Inspectors have the right to carry out inspections and cannot be refused entry by the establishment.


Inspections of prisons, young offender institutions holding young adults, and specialist units take place at least every five years, but usually more frequently, and on a risk-assessed basis.

Since 1 April 2013, the majority of inspections are unannounced, following up the recommendations of previous inspections. The inspections are scheduled proportionate to risk. Inspectors assess progress made and undertake in-depth analysis of areas of serious concern identified in the previous inspection, particularly on safety and respect. Some inspections are announced and the prison is informed in advance of the visit.

Prison inspections normally span two weeks, with two days of preparation and research during the first week. The Inspectorate collects information from many sources, including the people who work there, those who are imprisoned or detained there, and visitors or others with an interest in the establishment. Inspection findings are reported back to the establishment’s managers. Reports are published within 18 weeks of inspection. The establishment is then expected to produce an action plan, based on the report’s recommendations, within a short period following publication.

Young offender institutions

These are juvenile establishments that hold children under the age of 18. Some establishments hold only young offenders, while others are housed within adult prisons, in separate wings. Juvenile establishments are inspected annually.

Secure training centres

These are juvenile, purpose-built establishments that hold young offenders up to the age of 17. Secure Training Centres are inspected every year.

Immigration removal centres

Immigration removal centres hold foreign nationals who do not have a legal right to remain the UK but decline to leave. Every immigration removal centre (IRC) will receive a full unannounced inspection at least once every four years, conducted on a risk-assessed basis. The inspection lasts for one week (preceded by two days of research). If the centre holds children they are inspected every two years.

Border Force (Customs) facilities
Border Force facilities are inspected every two years.

Escort inspections
The Inspectorate conducts two to three escort inspections every year.

Short-term holding facility inspections

Short term holding facilities hold people waiting to be moved to an immigration removal centre or awaiting deportation. Non-residential short-term holding facilities are inspected once every six years. Residential short-term holding facilities will be inspected once every four years. Inspections are on a risk-assessed basis.

Police custody inspections

Police custody suites are used by the police to detain and hold people who have been arrested until their investigation is processed.
Every police force has at least one custody suite and most have between five and 15. We inspect a force’s custody suites at least once every six years; or more often if concerns have been raised during a previous inspection.Inspections last for one week, but may last for longer depending on the number of custody suites within the force or borough (they are also preceded by some days of research).

Military facility inspections

At the request of the Ministry of Defence, we inspect service custody facilities. These custody facilities are cells where the Navy, Air Force and Army police hold service personnel who have been arrested.Military facility inspections are conducted every two to three years by agreement and invitation from the military.These inspections are similar to our programme of police custody inspections, and during our inspections we assess similar criteria, although the context in which the detainees are held is slightly different.

Court inspections

Court cells detain people who are awaiting trial or sentence. The Inspectorate undertakes three court custody inspections a year which are currently announced in advance. Each court can be expected to be visited once every six years.Inspectors visit all courts containing cells within the region they are inspecting, which is usually between five and eight courts.

The reports

All inspection reports can be accessed at the following website address: HM Inspectorate of Prisons website  

The chief inspector for HMI Prisons

Charlie Taylor was initially appointed as HM Chief inspector of Prisons in 2020, and was reappointed in 2023.