HMIPS Approach to COVID-19

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

HMIPS are concerned that the outbreak of COVID-19 presents particular risks for Scotland’s prisons due to the vulnerability of the prison population and the difficulties in containing a large outbreak.

Based on current information, the Inspectorate has made the following changes to the way we operate in response to the virus; we recognise that we’re experiencing an unprecedented issue and our plans may have to change:

Inspections

A core part of our work is to inspect and monitor Scotland’s prisons. Given the situation, we are postponing all routine inspections and will carry out liaison visits on a risk assessed, essential visit basis only. We will consider conducting a visit when we believe the urgency to visit outweighs our precautions related to the coronavirus.  We will ensure that any postponed visits are rearranged in due course.

Inspection of Court Custody Units are under review.

Monitoring

The other core part of our work is to monitor Scotland’s prisons via our volunteer Independent Prison Monitors. We are currently identifying how many volunteers we may have available to monitor prisons but we have agreed that if there is a case of COVID-19 in an establishment, we will not carry out a monitoring visit to that area for 7-14 days following diagnosis, in line with the SPS approach. Given the lack of NHS testing, suspected cases held in isolation will be subject to the same safety procedures. Dip sampling of records to ensure decency and entitlements are being met will be considered. Given the potential impact of the COVID-19 on our staff and volunteers, HMIPS recognises we will not be able to fully meet our obligations to visit every prison in Scotland on a weekly basis. We will consider conducting a monitoring visit when we believe the urgency to visit outweighs our precautions related to the coronavirus.