The Prison Act 1952 and the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 require the Secretary of State for Justice and the Home Secretary to appoint independent Boards to monitor prisons and places of immigration detention, from members of the local community.
The legislation gives members unrestricted access to these establishments and to the prisoners and detained people held in them.
Under the National Monitoring Framework agreed with ministers, the Board is required to:
- make frequent visits
- have access to the records of the establishment
- inform ministers immediately of any abuse
- hear complaints and requests
- produce an annual report
In 2004, following the 2001 Lloyd review, ministers also charged Boards to satisfy themselves as to the humane and just treatment of those held within the establishment and (for prisons and YOIs) the range and adequacy of the programmes preparing them for release.
Boards report their findings on a regular basis to those responsible for managing the establishment. Those findings are brought together in published annual reports, which make an assessment of the establishment under 4 main headings:
- safety (including violence and self-harm measures, safeguarding and use of force)
- humane treatment (including segregation/separation, equality and accommodation)
- health and wellbeing (including primary care, mental health, exercise, drug and alcohol treatment and soft skills)
- progression and release (including education, training, offender management and preparations for release or removal)
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty designed to strengthen protection for people deprived of their liberty.
The protocol recognises that such people are particularly vulnerable and aims to prevent their ill-treatment through establishing a system of visits or inspections to all places of detention.
OPCAT requires that states designate a National Preventive Mechanism to carry out visits to places of detention, to monitor the treatment of and conditions for detainees and to make recommendations for the prevention of ill-treatment. The IMB is part of the UK’s National Preventive Mechanism.