The Scottish Parliament last week approved plans designed to improve the scrutiny of prisons right across the country, with a new independent monitoring service established to help ensure that all aspects of prisons are fully and independently monitored.
Announcing the changes, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:
“The previous system for monitoring Scotland’s prisons was not as effective as it could be. There was a lack of accountability and significant inconsistencies in the way in which individual visiting committees worked.
“Action needed to be taken to address some of the problems identified with the previous regime and we’ve done just that. A new improved system for monitoring Scotland’s prisons will now mean greater scrutiny of prisons right across the country. Independent Prison Monitors, as representatives of civic society, will have the right to visit any prison, any time, without prior notice, access any part of a prison and speak to any prisoner privately about any issue. They will also have the power to investigate any matter a prisoner brings to them.”
The changes will allow Scotland to meet its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM).
The previous system of prison visiting committees was not OPCAT compliant, Matheson pointed out.
The new arrangements “will create a more robust, professional, and co-ordinated approach to independent prison monitoring in Scotland which will deliver the best outcomes for prisoners and the wider community,” the justice secretary concluded.
Regular reviews of the system will be conducted through an Advisory Group set up by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, which will have an independent Chair and include representatives from the Scottish Human Rights Commission alongside other agencies.