The Commission's work in prisons
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)
The Commission has been invited to join prison inspectors on a selected number of Scottish prisons as part of a trial scheme, and is providing in-depth human rights knowledge to inspectors.
Independent Monitoring of Prisons
Independent monitors are essential in helping to ensure that prisoners’ human rights are upheld and that life in prison contributes to their rehabilitation. They are volunteers, and provide feedback on the treatment and conditions for prisoners, including conducting investigations. The service is subject to regular review through an Advisory Group, which includes representation from the Scottish Human Rights Commission, alongside other agencies and civil society organisations. Dr Alan Mitchell, a Commissioner at SHRC, is the independent Chair of the Advisory Group.
National Preventive Mechanism
People in detention are particularly vulnerable, so the international human rights framework requires States to set up national level bodies that can support efforts to prevent their ill treatment. The Commission is one of 20 members of the United Kingdom’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) which was established in March 2009 as part of the UK’s commitment under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
The NPM’s role is to:
- regularly examine the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in all places of detention under the UK’s jurisdiction and control;
- make recommendations to relevant authorities with the aim of improving the treatment and conditions of persons deprived of their liberty;
- submit proposals and observations on existing or draft legislation
The UK NPM receives technical assistance from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) and the UK government must account for the NPM’s ability to perform its functions to the SPT and other United Nations bodies.
In 2016 the Nelson Mandela Rules, which set out minimum standards that should be applied in prisons from admission to release, were adopted by the UN General Assembly. Read more here about how the NPM makes use of the Nelson Mandela Rules.
The Commission has been working with Her Majesty’s Inspector for Prisons in Scotland (HMIPS) to support a human rights based approach to the inspection of prisons. We provide advice in relation to the inspection standards and have been assisting HMIPS to undertake inspections to ensure that the human rights of prisoners are being respected. In 2018 HMIPS launched a new set of inspection standards with human rights embedded throughout, which the Commisson welcomed.
The Commission is routinely involved in the inspection of Scotland’s prison estate: