Bulletin 775 – HMIP Visits
Bulletin 775 9 April 2020
HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) – One-Day Inspection Visits
We are aware of proposals that will see HMIP undertaking one-day Inspection visits using an adapted methodology which provides effective independent scrutiny while adhering at all times to the ‘do no harm’ principle.
Normally we would not have formal consultation with either HMIP or HMPPS about inspection regimes, however as these are not normal times we have asked that HMPPS share with HMIP our thoughts. We believe that HMPPS holds the view that these inspections will be light touch and that there is no expectation of governors and their teams to increase their efforts or attendance in preparation for these short, one day inspections. We ask that members continue to give our senior leaders their support, specifically in not diverting any of your efforts or making any sacrifices of you or your team’s precious time in any preparation for these inspections. We share our Director General’s opinion that you are doing all what you can to deliver the safest regime for those in our care and the staff who you lead, in what are truly unprecedented times.
Our DG took time to explain his belief in the proposed inspection regime. We agreed that in normal times our members would welcome any external scrutiny with open arms, both because they are proud of their achievements and because as public servants it’s the right thing to do.
However these are not normal times and we believe that regardless of how light touch these inspections may be, they are not needed and will put undue pressure on governors and all who are working tirelessly in keeping each other, and those in our care, safe.
Our DG gave a commitment to share some of our thoughts with the Inspectorate. We appreciate that this is an extraordinary thing to do, and we are keen for this not to be seen as undermining the independent status of the Inspectorate. Some of our concerns and observations we have asked the DG to communicate with the Inspectorate include:
We find it to be both unnecessary and unhelpful to introduce scrutiny HMIP Inspections during a time when HMPPS as a whole are operating in command mode. We would normally welcome independent inspection of our prisons, but to introduce this now will place significant and damaging pressure on our members. This additional pressure may be too much for some of our members to deal with.
By introducing this system you must accept that you will be increasing the levels of stress and anxiety levels within prisons and you will remove the limited opportunity for our members to take some down time.
We ask that you consider the fear of inspection some of our members have, this will make their working lives during ‘COVID’ more challenging, with them seeing no tangible benefits resulting from any inspection report. We ask you to consider that parts of our own organisation will not be able to resist the desire to introduce an ‘action plan’ and the pressure to deliver the impossible will be made of our members.
We ask you to consider that inspection will record that our front line colleagues are working in impossible conditions, compounded by overcrowding and continued restricted regime. We believe that Inspectors will see instances of poor conditions for those in our care, but they will see more or an equal amount of effort being made by our front line colleagues to make conditions as safe and decent as humanly possible.
We know, as we are ‘Governors’ that the most senior managers in our prisons will sacrifice their precious time off in an attempt to further demonstrate that their prison is one to be proud of, this happened prior to COVID and this will happen now. We ask you to consider if this is something you wish to happen?
We do not agree that these inspections will achieve better outcomes for those in our care, at this moment in time this gift is outside of our members’ control. We ask that you consider to join with others to seek a significant reduction in overcrowding. We ask that you instruct your researcher to demonstrate to government that conditions in some of our prisons would significantly improve if overcrowding was reduced.
We ask you to consider that our members continue to put themselves at risk and are asking the same of their teams, and we genuinely believe your actions will cause undue harm to our members’ well-being. We absolutely believe this would not be your intention as we genuinely believe you hold a shared desire to uphold the rights of those in our care.
In finishing off, we continue to give our public support to our DG and his senior leadership team, we will not however support proposals which will give little tangible benefits to our members who are leading on the front line.