Frequently asked questions

About us

What does HM Inspectorate of Prisons do?

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has a statutory responsibility to inspect all prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs) in England and Wales and report on the treatment of and conditions for prisoners and detained people.

We jointly inspect secure training centres (STCs) in England with Ofsted. We also inspect court custody in England and Wales.

In addition, we inspect immigration detention facilities throughout the UK, as well as overseas escorts.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons can also be invited to inspect military detention facilities in the UK and prisons in Northern Ireland with Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, and prisons and other custodial institutions in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and some Commonwealth dependent territories.

We are not involved in:

  • investigating issues relating to an individual’s sentence
  • investigating issues relating to a prisoner’s transfer between prisons
  • advising families on legal issues or advice around property, food or release
  • investigating prisoner complaints (prisoners should use internal complaint processes and, if these are unsatisfactory, contact the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman).

Do you work with partner organisations?

Most inspections take place with other inspectorates, including Ofsted, Estyn, Care Quality Commission (CQC), Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, HM Inspectorate of Probation, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Care Inspectorate Wales and the General Pharmaceutical Council, appropriate to the type and location of the establishment. We work with a range of partners.

Who is the Chief Inspector of Prisons?

The Chief Inspector of Prisons is Charlie Taylor.

Who works at HM Inspectorate of Prisons?

Six inspection teams work under the Chief Inspector and Deputy Chief Inspector. Each team specialises in inspecting a specific type of establishment, for example, young offender institutions, immigration removal centres and adult women’s or men’s prisons. Our inspection staff also includes health care and substance misuse inspectors.

Other staff include our research team and editorial and administrative staff. In total around 60 people work at HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

You can find out more about our staff by looking at their profiles.

Inspections

How are you inspecting during COVID-19?

You can find information about our response to COVID-19, including scrutiny visits, on our COVID-19 page.

Why are some inspections announced and some unannounced?

Most of our inspections are unannounced, but on the basis of risk we might announce in advance that we plan to visit. Our inspection schedule provides details of announced inspections.

What happens after an inspection?

After an inspection, we publish a report and HM Prison and Probation Service will send us an Action Plan, detailing how the establishment intends to improve.

If we judge an establishment to be offering very poor outcomes for detainees, we may undertake an independent review of progress (IRP). IRPs are not inspections. Instead, they judge progress being made against selected recommendations from the last full inspection.

Do inspections actually change anything?

After an inspection, we state our key concerns and make recommendations to help the prison improve. HM Prison and Probation Service works with the prison to support progress. When we next inspect the prison, we report on how many of those recommendations have been achieved.

We are not a regulator and cannot close prisons. If we have serious concerns, we will raise them as an Urgent Notification with the Secretary of State for Justice.

Do you only report on what prisons do badly? How can I find a prison that does things well?

We report on good and bad aspects of an establishment. Each month we compile examples of notable positive practice that we have observed on our visits and inspections.

What are Expectations?

All inspections are conducted against our published independent inspection criteria, Expectations. These are based on international human rights standards, as well as issues considered essential to the safe, respectful and purposeful treatment of detainees in custody and their effective resettlement.

Expectations state our independent inspecting criteria and indicate the sources of evidence that we use to make our assessments. Evidence we use includes interviews carried out with staff and detainees, survey results, group discussions with detainees, documentation and inspectors’ observations.

What is a ‘healthy prison test’?

At the end of each inspection, we judge the quality of outcomes for prisoners in each of our healthy prison tests.

– outcomes for prisoners are good.

There is no evidence that outcomes for prisoners are being adversely affected in any significant areas.

– outcomes for prisoners are reasonably good.

There is evidence of adverse outcomes for prisoners in only a small number of areas. For the majority, there are no significant concerns. Procedures to safeguard outcomes are in place.

– outcomes for prisoners are not sufficiently good.

There is evidence that outcomes for prisoners are being adversely affected in many areas or particularly in those areas of greatest importance to the well-being of prisoners. Problems, if left unattended, are likely to become areas of serious concern.

– outcomes for prisoners are poor.

There is evidence that the outcomes for prisoners are seriously affected by current practice. There is a failure to ensure even adequate treatment of and/or conditions for prisoners. Immediate remedial action is required.

How do you make sure your inspections and reports are of good quality?

After every inspection, we ask the governor/director of the establishment for feedback on the inspection process. We also speak to the senior management team and the liaison officer (an officer allocated to provide administrative support to the inspection) to improve our methodology.

Each year we run a stakeholder survey and ask our stakeholders for their views on our reports to make sure that they are appropriate and informative.

Reports

Where can I find inspection reports?

You can search for them on our reports page. Older reports may be available on our archived website.

Contact information

How can I contact HM Inspectorate of Prisons?

You can find this information on our Contact Us page.

How can I contact a prison?

Information about all prisons in England and Wales – including contact details and information on visits – is provided by HM Prison and Probation Service and the Ministry of Justice.

How do I make a complaint against HM Inspectorate of Prisons?

Although we set ourselves high standards, there may be times when you are unhappy with our conduct. Our complaints page provides information on how to complain about HM Inspectorate of Prisons or a member of our staff, and how we will respond.