In August 2020, HMI Prisons launched scrutiny visits (SVs). Scrutiny visits focus on individual establishments and how they are recovering from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. They take account of, but are not limited by, the regime stage at which prisons are operating, as outlined in the HMPPS National Framework, and there is a strong focus on health and safety to minimise the risk of spreading infection. Scrutiny visits follow on from our programme of short scrutiny visits, which themselves replaced our planned inspection programme in April 2020.

Scrutiny visits provide independent scrutiny of a prison system that is in recovery and adhere at all times to the ‘do no harm’ principle. This means that we take all reasonable steps to mitigate risks for prisoners and detainees, prison staff and our own staff during these visits.

Scrutiny visits:

  • recognise that, as of August 2020, prisons are stable enough for more intensive scrutiny of prisoner outcomes, but that the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic mean it is too early for the restoration of full inspections;
  • examine the necessity and proportionality of measures taken in response to COVID-19, and the impact that they are having on the treatment of and conditions for prisoners during the recovery phase;
  • critically assess the pace at which individual prisons (re-)establish constructive rehabilitative regimes, recognising that establishments will be at different points in their recovery journey; and
  • provide transparency about the recovery from COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention and ensure that lessons can be learned quickly.

Scrutiny visits are shorter than a full inspection. A one-day detainee survey takes place in week one and a visit from inspectors takes place over two days the following week. All scrutiny visits report on single establishments, and the published reports include examples of notable positive practice observed.

Read the Chief Inspector’s statement announcing the launch of SVs.


Scrutiny visits take place across a range of settings. We use a bespoke methodology for each of these.


Adult male prisons

Scrutiny visits – methodology (786 kB)


Immigration estate

Scrutiny vists – methodology (2 MB)


Prisons holding women

Scrutiny visits – methodology (403 kB)


Children’s estate

Scrutiny visits – methodology (400 kB)


Health and safety guidance for all settings

Scrutiny visits – health and safety guidance (350 kB)


Human rights scoping

Scrutiny visits – human rights scoping (2 MB) (An accessible version of this can be provided upon request.)



HMI Prisons is seeking to gather information relating to the treatment and conditions for those detained in prisons or other places of detention, to assist us to remotely monitor them as part of our SV methodology. You can read more about what remote monitoring is and how it informs our work in Section 3 of our SV methodology document (786 kB).

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 direct this information 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.