Level 1 update from Chief Inspector

As we transition to COVID-19 Level 1, the Office of the Inspectorate will go back to a more normal way of working. My inspectors are already out and about visiting prisons, talking with prisoners and staff and carrying out their usual duties. Our overarching aim is to ensure that all prisoners are treated in a way that is fair, safe, secure and humane.

Visits to prisons by my inspectors restarted in late April after measures were put in place to ensure the safety of all involved. Ten visits subsequently took place. I noted in an update to Corrections Chief Executive Jeremy Lightfoot that across all sites visited, staff should be commended for the robust procedures put in place to maintain security, safety and good order during the COVID-19 emergency. Importantly, staff on the front line demonstrated professionalism, resilience, and courage, responding at pace to the emerging situation in the most challenging of times.

I was very encouraged by the reports of my inspectors from their visits, and I commend prison directors and their staff for the part they played in the Department’s response to the pandemic.

The Inspectorate response to the COVID-19 crisis has provided valuable insight into the management of complaints, and this has led us to strengthen our processes. As always, our expectation is that complaints should be resolved at the lowest level and our enhancements will continue to support this principle.

Another change we have made is that health complaints will now be managed by our clinical inspectors (who are registered nurses) who liaise directly with prison health centre managers.

In cases of urgency or safety, the Inspectorate will deal with the complaint directly in the first instance.

The response to the COVID-19 global emergency has been unprecedented. During this time, inspectors of Corrections, as operationally independent and objective observers, played a critical role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people in the care of the Department of Corrections. It was vital to respond at pace to the challenging environment and I am grateful for the contribution of my team and their significant efforts during this time.