From recommendations to concerns

From 3 May 2022, HMI Prisons will report up to 15 key concerns following inspection, rather than the 30–35 recommendations previously reported. Of those 15 key concerns, three to six will be identified as priorities. The change aims to encourage leaders to act on inspection reports in a way which generates real improvements in outcomes for those detained.

The change applies to prison, young offender institution and court custody reports. Piloting and consultation for immigration detention settings is ongoing. Read the full details of the change. (105 kB)

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor said:

“I am very pleased to introduce this change which encourages leaders to focus on the issues most likely to lead to improvements in conditions for and the treatment of prisoners and detainees. The Inspectorate will continue to expect clear and effective plans to be developed and implemented following an inspection. We hope that this, together with our focus on leadership, will lead to real, sustained change in prisons and custody.”

Consultation process and changes

The change was introduced following a consultation process during which HMI Prisons discussed the proposed approach with around 400 individuals from five groups:

  • inspectors and other inspectorates
  • inspected bodies
  • contract managers
  • the voluntary sector
  • academics and other interested parties.

Read more about the consultation process. (104 kB)

A range of feedback was provided. Inspectors, other inspectorates and those from inspected bodies said that the approach of reporting 30 or more recommendations made it difficult to decide which to prioritise. They were largely in favour of the proposed change, provided that an action plan would continue to be required and HMI Prisons would still measure progress in addressing concerns at a subsequent independent review of progress or inspection.

The contract managers we spoke to were generally positive but were concerned that the loss of recommendations could reduce their ability to hold establishments to account for poor performance. HMI Prisons was able to share examples of the way that concerns would be reported as part of the consultation which, in most cases, allayed this concern.

The feedback from the remaining groups was more mixed. Most respondents were positive, but others wanted us to use stronger language to report inspection findings. They wanted it to be more apparent that we expect a response to our concerns.

Most positive feedback focused on the limited impact of our current approach and the need to give local managers the responsibility for rectifying concerns. Respondents were generally positive about limiting the number of issues that we raise as concerns.

In response to the feedback, we changed the way that we will present our concerns in our inspection reports. We made several changes to the section of the report which details our priority and key concerns, including moving this section to the start of our reports, immediately following the Chief Inspector’s introduction, to increase its prominence. We also changed the name of the section to ‘What needs to improve at [name of the establishment]’ to make clear that our concerns need to be addressed, and amended the introductory text of the section to state that priorities need to be addressed first and that an action plan should be produced and sent to HMI Prisons.

We thank all those who took the time to participate in the consultation for their contributions. An evaluation of the impact of this change will be carried out in 2023.