Army corrections: recognizing the importance of standards and accreditation.
Why Accredit Army Facilities?
The four major reasons the Army accredits correctional facilities and agencies are: Accreditation provides a road map to excellence; encourages the professionalism of Army corrections; emphasizes the belief that outside accreditation is the right thing to do; and develops future facilities that meet national standards.
ACA accreditation provides a road map to excellence through the standards and outcome measures. The recent change to performance-based standards provides a better system to evaluate performance, versus simply providing policy, procedure and practice. Outcome measures provide a system to track performances and indicators over time in order to focus on areas needing assistance. ACA standards provide leeway on how standards are achieved while taking into account the different systems and environments. ACA accreditation has always been a road map for Army corrections to follow, whether in designing new facilities, operating facilities, central offices or parole boards, or conducting training.
Corrections is a profession. Security staff who work in prisons, jails and community correction centers are correctional officers, and not guards; guards simply secure an area or thing, and correctional officers do more than simply guard prisoners. The soldier who has been awarded the 31E military occupational skill is trained and certified as a correctional officer and not a guard. Army corrections officers continue their education in the profession throughout their career through ACA certification. To date, the Army has certified approximately 55 soldiers and civilians through the ACA certification program. The Army prides itself on having a "corrections profession."
Accreditation is a growing trend. Along with the health care, education and corrections fields, other examples of fields that have accrediting bodies are nursing, engineering, law enforcement, pastoral education, child care and zoos. Corrections accreditation not only affects the offenders, but also provides standards for staff, in terms of physical plant, administration and training. As the Army went through the process of accrediting its facilities, many asked, "Why should the Army seek accreditation? Army facilities are well-run." Instead the question should be, "Why not accredit?" Or, "Is the facility afraid of an outside agency measuring its performance?"
The accreditation process has provided standards to design and renovate Army facilities. All new Army facilities established since ACA standards were developed have been designed to meet ACA standards. The standards were used to leverage and develop new facility design requirements and to ensure compliance with national standards and best practices. Through the accreditation process, noncompliant physical plant standards required a plan of action, some of which resulted in renovations to become compliant with the standards. When asked why a facility needed certain physical plant requirements, the Army was always able to cite the ACA standards as the industry standard.
How Does the Army Achieve and Maintain ACA Accreditation?
Achieving and maintaining accreditation is not easy. However, there are resources to assist with accreditation, and many different ways to achieve and maintain accreditation. The main resource is the ACA Standards, Accreditation and Professional Development Department. The department assists agencies throughout the process and provides guidance on the process and the standards. The ACA website has sections for standard committee minutes, agency manual updates and interpretations, and frequently asked questions. ACA staff can also provide assistance visits and mock audits. The Correctional Accreditation Managers Association is an association of ACA accreditation managers and other staff who can help provide guidance, but the ACA Standards, Accreditation and Professional Development Department should be the main resource, particularly with standards interpretations. Systems must be established to achieve accreditation and just as important, to maintain accreditation. There is no one way to set up these systems; but systems must be established.
The Army system has been developed over the years and is still a work in progress. It has adapted processes from various states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who for many years have been leaders in ACA accreditation and winners of the Golden Eagle Award. The main components for achieving and maintaining accreditation are support from the highest levels, internal reviews at the facility or agency level and the Army annual technical assistance visit (TAV).
ACA accreditation is ingrained in the Army. Though not mandated by DoD Instruction for Corrections, the Army made it mandatory for all facilities to be accredited, and many standards are written into Army regulations. Since 1996, senior Army corrections leaders had a vision of accreditation of all facets of corrections, and slowly bit off a piece at a time--all stateside facilities first, then overseas facilities, then the parole board and the newly formed central office, and finally the training academy. The deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Review Board Agency), who provides secretary of the Army corrections oversight, has always supported and pushed ACA accreditation. Brig. Gen. Mark Inch, then commander of ACC and Army deputy provost marshal general has always supported and pushed ACA accreditation. Brig. Gen. David Phillips, commander of USAMPS, supported and pushed accreditation of the military police school, which included the corrections academy. Having the support from the top makes accreditation easier to accomplish.
Sometimes, maintaining accreditation is more difficult than achieving accreditation. Facilities and agencies must incorporate accreditation into their daily operations. They must live the standards to truly reap the benefits of accreditation. If they simply do something to put in a folder, it will show during the tour of an audit. For reaccreditation, facilities must document compliance with the standards for three years. If no system is established for checking each standard throughout the audit cycle, mistakes may be made and facility/agency staff have a difficult time later finding documentation to demonstrate compliance. Army facilities and agencies have established internal reviews completed by facility accreditation managers and commanders (wardens). Each agency and facility is different in terms of how often it reviews folders for compliance. Facilities under the adult correctional institutions standards manual conduct monthly folder reviews, while those under other standards manuals that may have fewer standards usually conduct quarterly reviews. If a folder is not prepared to standard, it comes back for review at the next scheduled review, if not sooner. Part of this process is ensuring the accreditation manager is part of the review process for all policy and procedure documents, so that changes are in compliance with ACA standards.
The Army's annual TAV serves as an external evaluation for the facility and agency. Accreditation has become part of the Army's quality management system. The Army has always had an operational requirement to conduct TAVs to assist the warden in assessing his or her facility and agency. Fifteen years ago, the Army incorporated ACA standards into the annual review process. The system was set up on a three-year cycle. The first year, the team would review all Army requirements, all mandatory ACA requirements and a percentage of ACA nonmandatory standards. The second year, the team would review all Army requirements, all mandatory ACA requirements and the remaining ACA nonmandatory standards. The third year, the review is purely an ACA mock audit, with any Army-specific standards that may be mandated by the Department of the Army. The team is made up of mainly soldiers and civilians from within the Army Corrections System. Emphasis is placed on using ACA auditors and accreditation managers the third year, and sometimes non-Army personnel (other ACA auditors) are used. The process is also used to train and mentor staff from the facilities and agencies to see processes and practices from other facilities while training possible future auditors. One of the factors that assist the Army in accreditation is having dedicated and experienced ACA accreditation managers and seven ACA auditors on staff throughout the system. Navy accreditation managers and auditors are also used for TAVs.
In 2008, the Army started the process of accrediting ACC and ACPB, and in 2009 the USAMPS for the first time. The Army was starting from square one, with no experience in accrediting either type of agency. The Army had experienced accreditation managers and auditors, but had no experience with these types of agency accreditations. The first step was to assign an agency accreditation manager or team. Next, the Army made visits to the standard bearers, those already accredited in these types of agencies. This included visits to: Ohio's Central Office, Parole Board and Training Academy; New York's Central Office, Parole Board and Training Academy; and the Arkansas Parole Board. Then the process began, reviewing current policy and procedures and making changes when needed. The ACA Standards and Accreditation and Professional Development Department received many questions from the Army ACA accreditation manager for guidance. It should be noted that Army accreditation questions are routed through the Army accreditation manager so that there is only one point of contact with the ACA standards representative to ensure all accreditation managers get the information from ACA for standardization purposes, and to also handle all issues at the lowest level. Policy, procedures and folders were developed on site visits, and reviews of folders at ACA conferences by Army teams were conducted. A final mock audit was done using Army ACA auditors to best prepare the facilities. All three agencies were accredited with ACC and USAMPS scoring 100 percent during the initial accreditation.
The U.S. Army was awarded the Golden Eagle Award by ACA on Aug. 8, 2011. The Golden Eagle Award is presented to agencies that accredit all of their facilities and offices associated with corrections. The Army is one of approximately 17 federal and state agencies and the only DoD agency to be awarded the Golden Eagle Award. This award is an immense asset and achievement for any agency that participates in the accreditation process. It could not have been accomplished if it were not for all the soldiers and civilian staff members working in the different facilities and agencies. To military corrections, ACA standards and accreditation is more than just the Golden Eagle Award. The Golden Eagle Award is the icing on the cake, but achieving and maintaining the ACA standards, and maintaining ACA accreditation means much more. ACA standards are considered the best practices in the corrections business, and the Army uses ACA standards as the base for the Army Corrections System.
Facilities and agencies must incorporate accreditation into their daily operations. They must live the standards to truly reap the benefits of accreditation.
David K. Haasenritter is assistant deputy, corrections oversight, for the Army Review Board Agency in Arlington Va.
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|Title Annotation:||CT FEATURE|
|Author:||Haasenritter, David K.|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2012|
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