HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland: Strategic Plan 2019-22


During the last three years HMIPS completed Fourteen full inspections, Four return visits and Five court custody inspections

About us – who we are and what we do

HMIPS was established on 1 January 1981, following the publication in 1979 of a report by the Committee of Inquiry into the United Kingdom Prison Services (The May Committee). This report recommended that there should be a system of inspection of the Prison Service, distanced as far as may be practicable from the Prison Department. Subsequently, the post of HMCIPS was approved and the role was placed on a statutory basis by the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1980.

HMCIPS is required to inspect the 15 prisons across Scotland in order to establish the treatment of, and the conditions for prisoners, and to report publicly on its findings. The Public Services Reform (Inspection and Monitoring of Prisons) (Scotland) Order 2015 came into force on 31 August 2015, and from that date HMCIPS assumed overall responsibility for the monitoring of prisons, which is carried out on a day-to-day basis by approximately 120 volunteer IPMs. HMIPS inspect and monitor against a set of published Standards, which were reviewed and relaunched in May 2018.

HMCIPS also has responsibility for the inspection of the treatment of and conditions for prisoners under escort, and there is a separate set of Standards for these inspections.

HMCIPS produces and publishes an Annual Report that is presented to the Scottish Ministers and laid before Parliament.

HMIPS is an independent body. The regular monitoring and inspecting of prisons and other places of detention provides an important safeguard and a reassurance to the public. Such scrutiny needs to be conducted effectively, identifying both areas of good practice and where improvements should be made. The requirement to report these findings publicly contributes to public confidence in the
criminal justice system.

The current Chief Inspector, Wendy Sinclair-Gieben was appointed in July 2018.

The UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)

HMIPS is one of twenty one organisations that comprise the UK National Preventative Mechanism (NPM). All our inspections contribute to the UK's response to its international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (OPCAT). HMCIPS is a member of the NPM Steering Group. During 2014/15, a Scottish NPM subgroup was established, comprising the six member organisations in Scotland. The NPM publish an Annual Report of their findings.

Over the last 3 years IPMs completed over 2700 prison monitoring visits and dealt with almost 3000 requests from prisoners

Our Vision

"All people in places of detention are treated humanely, with dignity and respect"

Our Values

We will demonstrate these values in the way that we work together as an organisation and in all of our interactions with our partners.


We will fulfil our statutory duty to report accurately,
impartially and publicly concerning the treatment
and conditions for prisoners in Scotland.


We will be open and transparent about our inspection
and monitoring processes, and ensure our inspection
and monitoring reports are accessible when we report
publicly on our findings.


We will demonstrate the highest professional standards of behaviour and build trust with all
those we engage with.


We will treat all people we engage with,
with dignity, courtesy and respect.

Key achievements
over the last three years

During the last three years' HMIPS completed Fourteen full inspections, Four return visits and Five court custody inspections

  • The production of Standards for inspecting court custody provision
    in Scotland
  • Carried out a thematic study on the experience of older prisoners in Scottish prisons, and published a report in July 2017 entitled Who Cares? The lived experience of older prisoners in Scotland's prisons. This report highlighted the growing challenges of meeting the needs of an increasingly old and infirm prison population – social care, healthcare, activities, family contact, mobility, and personal fears. It also highlighted the need for a clear strategy for older prisoners. The report was well received and provoked considerable interest and debate.
  • HMIPS was delighted to receive Investing in Volunteers (IiV) accreditation in 2018, in relation to the IPM role. IiV is the UK quality standard for all organisations which involve volunteers in their work.
  • Contributed to the work
    of the NPM Steering
    Group and the Scottish NPM Subgroup.
  • Undertook a review of the Standards for Inspecting and Monitoring Prisons in Scotland's quality indicators in May 2018, to express as clearly as possible what would be monitored and inspected under each of the nine Standards. We also placed the Human Rights Based Approach – PANEL Principles at the core of all of our monitoring and inspection activities.
  • Gave evidence to Parliamentary Committees on issues that affected prisoners; prisoner voting, the use of remand, the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill and Home Detention Curfew.
  • Undertook a review of the arrangements for Home Detention Curfew within the Scottish Prison Service to provide assurance for Ministers, the Parliament
    and the public.

Over the last 3 years IPMS completed over 2700 prison monitoring visits and dealt with almost 3000 requests from prisoners

Our strategic ambition

"To be recognised globally as leading edge in the scrutiny of how people in detention in Scotland are treated"

Our Key Partners

Our prison inspection teams comprise HMIPS staff and subject experts from other organisations. HMIPS would like to take this opportunity to thank its key partners for their continued support. Our five key partners are:

Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS)

HIS takes lead responsibility for inspecting Standard 9 – Health and Wellbeing. One of the biggest and often most challenging elements of prison inspections is the inspection of prisoner healthcare. Standard 9 was developed in conjunction with HIS and a range of their key stakeholders, and the quality indicators under the Standard reflect a human rights approach as well as the Health and Social Care Standards: My support, my life principles and HIS Quality of Care Approach.

Education Scotland

Education Scotland participate in all prison inspections and take lead responsibility for inspecting Standard 6 – Purposeful Activity. This Standard focuses on evaluating how well prisons provide employment, training and educational activities for prisoners while they serve their sentences, and is one of the key differentiators in reducing reoffending. Education Scotland also consider whether prisoners spend their time purposefully and constructively in out of cell activities, including physical education and cultural activities.

Care Inspectorate

The Care Inspectorate take lead responsibility for Standard
7 – Transitions from Custody to Life in the Community. They look at what support is in place in the lead up to people being released, and importantly what support is in place once released, to assist people
to reintegrate into the community and become responsible citizens.

Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC)

The SHRC provide an important contribution to every prison inspection by providing an expert view on whether prisoner's human rights are upheld. Their findings are incorporated into the HMIPS final report. They also assisted us in developing the revised quality indicators for our inspection and monitoring Standards, which are based on the Panel Principles.

Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS)

The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland promotes and safeguards the human rights of children and young people under 18, or up to 21 if they have care experience. During prison inspections where establishments hold prisoners under the age of 18, the office of the Children and Young People's Commissioner are invited to review the prison against international human rights standards. Their findings are incorporated into the HMIPS final report.