Britain's former prison inspector is to make an unprecedented tour of Hong Kong jails this month to prepare the first independent report on penal institutions in the territory. Judge Sir Stephen Tumin, famed for his outspoken views and clashes with ministers, flew in from London yesterday to begin the three-week survey. He is also expected to visit the Vietnamese camp at High Island, where conditions were recently condemned as 'intolerable'. The study will establish a benchmark for prison standards after the handover. Sir Stephen is undertaking the inspection with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch Asia which is collaborating on the project with Human Rights Monitor. The investigation is likely to cover topics such as overcrowding, understaffing, suicide rates, bullying, solitary confinement, rehabilitation and the use of sedatives. Law Yuk-kai of Human Rights Monitor said: 'We want to have some comprehensive review of penal institutions in Hong Kong. 'We want to know whether they comply with international standards and the Bill of Rights. It will also provide a reference point for future improvements.' Sir Stephen, chief prison inspector for eight years, hit the headlines shortly before his retirement in 1995 when he told Home Secretary Michael Howard to stop meddling with Britain's jails. Mr Law said: 'We wanted someone really impartial and interested in the proper running of these institutions. 'Sir Stephen is very independent. He had no reservations in criticising any shortcomings of the British Government.' The Correctional Services Department has given access to all institutions. Last year overcrowding hit an all time high with 14,211 prisoners crammed into space for 10,366, although numbers have since eased off. The rate of recidivism has also soared with half of all new inmates having previous convictions. Pauline Deary, chairman of the Prisoners' Friends Association, said there was a desperate need to improve rehabilitation. 'What he really needs to look at is getting the guys on to courses before they leave. 'At the moment they're doing brain dead jobs like book binding - nothing that will give them any skills for getting a job when they're released.' News of the study comes a week after a scathing report on Vietnamese camps by Human Rights Watch Asia which said boat people were living 'in conditions of extreme overcrowding, intimidation and violence'. Pam Baker of Refugee Concern expected Sir Stephen to find the centres worse than the prisons. 'The place will probably be scrubbed clean, but I expect he understands that and has eyes in the back of his head,' she said.