In March 2020, HMI Prisons’ planned inspection schedule was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2020 and spring 2021, we conducted short scrutiny visits and scrutiny visits. These visits, which operated under the ‘do no harm’ principle, allowed HMI Prisons to fulfil its statutory duty to report on treatment of and conditions for prisoners and detainees, while making sure that the health of prisoners and detainees, establishment staff and HMI Prisons staff was not compromised.

In light of the falling number of COVID-19 infections both in the community and in prisons, and with a large proportion of the population now being vaccinated, we have decided to return to full inspections.

Full inspections will normally be carried out over two weeks, with a two-day visit by four or five members of HMI Prisons’ staff to carry out a detainee survey in week one. This will be followed by a five-day visit by approximately 10 HMI Prisons and partner inspectorate staff the following week.

All full inspections will be undertaken on the basis of risk and following robust health and safety protocols.

Inspections of court custody facilities were suspended in March 2020, in line with other types of establishments. In September 2020, we returned to full inspection of court custody facilities, following a bespoke methodology and health and safety guidance.


Health and safety guidance for full inspections (Dec 2022) (PDF) (341 kB)

Health and safety guidance for service custody facilities inspections (January 2022) (PDF) (350 kB)

Court custody facilities – methodology (176 kB)

Court custody facilities – health and safety guidance (January 2023) (PDF) (495 kB)



HMI Prisons gathers information relating to the treatment and conditions for those detained in prisons or other places of detention, to help us to remotely monitor them as part of our inspection methodology. Remote monitoring means that we are able to receive information about an establishment from other organisations or individuals, at the same time as inspecting the prison in person.

HMI Prisons has a dedicated email address to receive information for this purpose. If you wish to share any information regarding the treatment and conditions for those detained, please send it to:

Please include the name of the establishment you are referring to, as well as any relevant dates. This email address will not be monitored daily and should only be used for information related to treatment in and conditions of detention. We cannot investigate individual cases or complaints. Information received will be kept confidential unless it raises safeguarding concerns, which will be addressed in line with our safeguarding protocols.

All other queries, including any of immediate concern, should be directed to Our general enquiries telephone number is 020 7340 0500.