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.

Find out more about our work in prisons.

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.

All annual reports from the NPM can be read at their website.

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.

Prison Inspection

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.  

The Commission has been involved in the inspection of several of Scotland’s 15 prisons:

Report on HMP Low Moss 29 May-8 June 2017

Report on HMP Edinburgh 6-17 March 2017

HMP and YOI Polmont Longitudinal Inspection 23-27 Jan 2017

Report on HMP Kilmarnock November 2016

Report on HMP Barlinnie Full Inspection 16-27 May 2016

Report on HMP Open Estate 22 - 29 February 2016

Report on HMP & YOI Grampian 30 November - 8 December 2015

Report on HMP & YOI Cornton Vale 28 September - 7 October 2015

Report on HMP Addiewell 29 June - 10 July 2015

Report on HMP Dumfries Full Inspection 11-22 May 2015

Report on HMP Glenochil 16 - 24 March 2015