Review of Proposals to Improve Arrangements for Independent Monitoring of Prisons

The Scottish Government recently caused a furore in the criminal justice world when it suggested abolishing prison Visiting Committees and replacing them with an advocacy service for prisoners. While it had been recognised for some time that the existing system of Visiting Committees was in need of reform, their proposed abolition was controversial. The chief criticism of this approach was that it would leave Scotland exposed as non-compliant with its international obligations under OPCAT (The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture). The Government therefore commissioned a review of independent monitoring of prisons in Scotland which has now been published. The review recommends establishing a system of voluntary independent prison monitors, who should report annually to Scottish Ministers with reports being made public. A total of 21 proposals include that funding for the service should be independent of the Scottish Prison Service, and that monitors should be appointed under a public appointments system. A Government response to the review is awaited.