We carry out a survey at the start of every inspection. The results of this contribute to the evidence base for the inspection.

We have developed self-completion questionnaires to support our Expectations. These include questions covering the detainee ‘journey’ from reception to release, together with questions about their background. Knowing their background enables us to compare responses from each demographic group that is represented in the establishment population.

The questionnaires also allow detainees to express, in their own words, what they find most positive and negative about the establishment. We undertake qualitative analysis of these written comments for inspectors, but neither the comments nor analysis are published. The adult prisoner questionnaire comes in 14 languages and can be completed via a telephone translation service if needed.

The questionnaire is offered to a random sample of detainees. We calculate the minimum sample size required to ensure that the findings can be generalised to the entire population of the establishment. In smaller establishments we may offer the questionnaire to the entire population.

We distribute and collect the questionnaires in person. So that detainees can give their informed consent to participate, we explain the purpose of the survey, explain our policies around confidentiality and anonymity and emphasise that participation is voluntary (read more about our ethical principles).

Those who agree to take part are provided with a sealable envelope for their completed questionnaire. We complete the questionnaire via a face-to-face interview for detainees who tell us that they have literacy difficulties.

Further information about how we undertake the detainee survey is available alongside the survey results, which are published with each inspection report.

You can also read more about the detainee survey for scrutiny visits (786 kB).