On-site inspections in public offices and institutions have traditionally been an important part of the Ombudsman's work.

Prisons, closed institutions, Defence Forces

The law obliges the Ombudsman to conduct on-site inspections especially in prisons and closed institutions and to monitor the treatment of persons confined in them.

In addition, he carries out regular inspections in units of the Defence Forces, the Border Guard and in Finnish peacekeeping contingents.

Inspections also take place at police stations, public prosecutor's offices and courts as well as social welfare and health care authorities and institutions, such as homes for the intellectually disabled and children's homes.

Failings come to light

Shortcomings which the Ombudsman decides on his own initiative to investigate often come to light in the course of on-site inspections.

Inspections have an important preventive function, but at the same time they provide a picture of the circumstances in which the authorities must operate and add to the knowledge needed to arrive at decisions on complaints.

The confidential discussions also reveal shortcomings which have not been brought to the Ombudsman's attention in complaints.

Special attention to appropriateness of conditions

The matters examined during on-site inspections of institutions include the appropriateness of conditions, such as accommodation areas as well as food and health care.

Attention is also paid to the treatment of inmates as well as to the use of coercive and disciplinary measures.

During inspections, inmates of institutions as well as conscripts always have the opportunity to speak to the Ombudsman or his representative in confidentiality.

Other aspects examined at sites inspected include how smoothly matters are taken care of and whether decisions are made appropriately: whether they are in accordance with the law and based on sufficient grounds.

Inspections also always include discussions with the personnel and management bodies of institutions as well as scrutiny of documents.

OPCAT inspections

In November 2014, the Parliamentary Ombudsman became the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) referred to in the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. Consequently, new features and requirements were included in inspections.

The NPM is responsible for conducting inspections in places where persons deprived of their liberty are held.

Such places include police departments and remand prisons, detention units for foreigners, psychiatric hospitals, residential schools and child welfare institutions.

Inspections can now also be carried out in all private places that can be used to hold persons who have been deprived of their liberty. Such places include the detention facilities on board ships and aeroplanes and in public events.
Help from experts of different fields, such as doctors, and so-called experts by experience, who have themselves been placed in an institution in the past, may be used during these inspections.