Terms of reference

These Terms of Reference spell out the responsibilities of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Statutory responsibilities

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons' responsibilities are set out in Section 5A of the Prison Act 1952 as inserted by section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982.

They are to:

  • inspect or arrange for the inspection of prisons in England and Wales and report to the government on the results
  • in particular, report to the government on the treatment of prisoners and conditions in prisons
  • report on matters connected with prisons in England and Wales and prisoners in them
  • submit an annual report to be laid before Parliament

HM Chief Inspector's statutory remit covers only England and Wales, but he/she may conduct inspections by invitation outside the United Kingdom. He/she also carries out inspections in Immigration Service detention centres and on behalf of the Youth Justice Board in secure juvenile accommodation inside and outside the prison estate.

The government attaches great importance to having a Chief Inspector of Prisons and an Inspectorate of high quality, independent of the Prison Service in order to provide the public, parliament and government with an objective and authoritative assessment of prison conditions.


In determining the inspection programme, HM Chief Inspector will use his/her judgement and expertise in deciding what to inspect, how inspections should be carried out, what the findings should be and whether an inspection is to be announced or unannounced. HM Chief Inspector's remit includes thematic inspection of issues cutting across individual establishments.

The Chief Inspector will need to ensure that he/she:

  • inspects all the prison establishments in England and Wales
  • maintains information systems to ensure that inspection resources are targeted at areas of most need and problems identified can be tackled promptly
  • keeps the inspection process, and the composition of inspection teams, under review to ensure that inspection standards are maintained and that these objectives are met within available resources.

The Chief Inspector will be expected to publish the methodology against which he/she inspects prison establishments including how the findings are supported.

HM Chief Inspector will be expected to establish working arrangements with HM Chief Inspector of Probation to ensure that areas where the two services need to work together are routinely examined in their inspection programmes and to develop with the Chief Inspector of Probation standards against which joint working is to be inspected. These standards should reflect the separate responsibilities of the two services and would need to include, for example, preparation and follow-through of resettlement plans and risk assessment of prisoners before release or parole. Both Chief Inspectors will work with the Director General of the Prison Service, the National Director of the National Probation Service and the Director of Criminal Policy on the standards to be used.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons is expected to work closely with HM Chief Inspectors of Probation, the Crown Prosecution Service, Constabulary and Magistrates Courts in inspecting and reporting on interdependent areas and matters of common concern.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons


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