The Justice Secretary, David Lidington, has introduced a process so Chief Inspectors of Prisons can alert the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State where there are urgent and significant concerns about the performance of a prison.
The Secretary of State must then publish his response within 28 days with a plan of action. There will then be a long term plan for sustaining improvements. The procedure is set out below.
Trigger day: HM Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) would verbally notify the Governor who is responsible for ensuring the prison is safe, secure and stable. HMIP then writes to the Secretary of State and publishes his letter. Ministers are notified.
Days 2-21: Diagnostics and action identification. This involves the senior board meeting to appoint an Urgent Notification Lead; they identify priority issues and provide senior direction. The key people to effect the change are identified; working groups meet to develop detailed actions to address significant and urgent concerns. Ministerial input is noted, actions plans are developed and these are signed off by the Senior Board.
Days 22-27: A draft 28 day response is prepared. This, and the detailed action plan are signed off by ministers and the response is sent to the Chief Inspector.
Day 28: The final response is published.
Annual updates are also published on the status of all Urgent Notification Prisons to ensure long-term improvement is sustained.
Both the Chief Inspector’s letter and the response from the Secretary of State will be available on GOV.UK
Commenting after the Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington, announced a new ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol, Mr Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:
“I welcome the new ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol which the Secretary of State for Justice has announced. This has the potential to be an important outcome of prison inspections, and to strengthen the role of HM Inspectorate of Prisons. Our job is to report on the treatment and conditions experienced by prisoners, and these new arrangements should mean that in the most serious cases there will be an effective and speedy response.”