Following the First Minister’s announcement on Monday, 4 January 2021, confirming that mainland Scotland would be put under lockdown restrictions similar to those imposed in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, and as a direct result of the increased risk posed by the new variant of COVID-19, HMIPS has taken the difficult decision to suspend on-site monitoring and liaison visits to prisons and Court Custody Units.
We are acutely aware that effective scrutiny of the conditions and treatment of prisoners is never more important than during a pandemic, when measures which the Scottish Prison Service may be obliged to put in place to deal with the increased risks in relation to COVID-19 could potentially impact on the freedoms, rights and health of prisoners. Remote monitoring and ad hoc visits will continue to ensure scrutiny is maintained particularly where we have concerns.
This decision has not been taken lightly, but has been taken in line with Government guidelines. Given the current new variant COVID-19 pressures and the potential for the vaccine to be rolled out in the next few months, reducing the risk of transmission is of paramount importance, and by reducing the number of people visiting the prisons and court custody units we will have contributed to reducing the risk.
These arrangements will be reviewed by HMIPS fortnightly and further updates provided.