Inspecting the prison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Since John Howard first described prison conditions in the late C18, the history of prison inspection has involved a changing balance of independence and influence. The modern role of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) was established in response to poor conditions, disturbances and poor industrial relations. Chief Inspectors including David Ramsbotham, Anne Owers and Nick Hardwick have worked hard to establish its independence alongside clear human rights based inspection criteria known as Expectations and a rigorous methodology with the prisoner voice at its heart. The inspectorate’s remit now includes immigration detention, young offender institutions and police custody. It works closely with other criminal justice inspectorates. Its role is underpinned by the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) that requires state parties to establish a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) to carry preventative visits to all places of detention. Prison conditions and safety had deteriorated by 2015, exemplified by the rise in self-inflicted deaths. With the election of a new government and following reports by a number of parliamentary committees, the question of the inspectorate’s independence and influence was raised again. The report concludes that the inspectorate’s independence is an important safeguard and should not be diminished.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Prisons
EditorsYvonne Jewkes, Jamie Bennett, Ben Crewe
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-315-79777-9
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-74565-9, 978-0-415-74566-6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2016

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