Preventive visits do not attempt to respond to individual cases. Instead the focus is to analyse the place of detention as a system and assess all aspects related to the deprivation of liberty. The aim is to identify aspects of detention which could lead to violations of human rights.
Preventive visits alone cannot solve all problems. They need to be included in a holistic framework to address the root-causes, that lead to torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention. These causes may lie in the legislation, the public policies or the institutions themselves.
Preventive monitoring visits are:
- Proactive rather than reactive: Preventive visits can take place at any time, even when there is no apparent problem or specific complaints from detainees.
- Regular rather than one-off: Preventive detention monitoring is a systematic and ongoing process, which means that visits should occur on a regular basis.
- Global rather than individual: Preventive visits focus on analysing the place of detention as a system and assessing all aspects related to the deprivation of liberty, to identify problems which could lead to torture or ill-treatment.
- Cooperation rather than denunciation: Preventive visits are part of an ongoing and constructive dialogue with relevant authorities, providing concrete recommendations to improve the detention system over the long term.
Types of preventive visits
A monitoring body, such as a National Preventive Mechanism, can conduct different types of visits to places of detention:
These visits will usually last days and involve a large multidisciplinary team. They may be announced in advance. In-depth visits look at all aspects of the functioning of a place of detention. Their main objective is to document the situation thoroughly, analyse risk factors, and identify both problems and good practice.
Ad hoc visits
These are usually short, unannounced visits to one particular place, with a small team. Ad hoc visits are primarily intended to have deterrent effect and should therefore be unpredictable. They can also be carried out in response to unanticipated situations, to follow up on earlier recommendations or to examine specific issues in individual places of detention.
These are usually focused visits to a number of places. Generally they involve a specialised team. Thematic visits concentrate either on one specific aspect of detention (such as health services or disciplinary measures) or one specific category of persons deprived of liberty (e.g. prisoners with life sentences, or recently arrived prisoners) in a number of places of detention. The objective is to enable a broad analysis of risk factors and patterns of good and bad practice.