Department of Defense Values ACA Accreditation

Article excerpt

During the past 15 years that I have been involved in military corrections, my superiors, peers and subordinates have asked the questions why accreditation and what does it do for Department of Defense (DOD) corrections? These questions are usually from people who do not understand the accreditation process and its benefits. I have had to answer these questions as a facility security officer, facility deputy and central office administrator. My initial response was to say that we expect our universities, medical facilities and other services to be accredited, so why not our correctional facilities? I then explained specific benefits of accreditation and closed with the fact that if we believe we do corrections in an excellent manner, we should not be afraid to have an outside agency verify it. In the past 15 years, I have observed the positive impact American Correctional Association' standards and accreditation have had on the Department of Defense correctional system, and I would like to share some of the benefits of ACA standards and the accreditation process.

Professional collaboration between DOD and ACA dates back to the first meeting of the American Prison Association. The first ACA-accredited DOD correctional facility was the Army's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in 1988. In 1989, the Navy constructed two new facilities following ACA physical plant standards and both were later accredited in 1993 and 1994. Since then, the Army has accredited all its stateside and overseas facilities (though one stateside facility is no longer accredited). The United States Marine Corps accredited two of its stateside facilities in the early 2000s. Since that initial accreditation, the DOD correctional system has used ACA standards and the accreditation process to design, construct and operate its facilities.

Standards: A Guiding Light

ACA standards can provide a facility and central office with a guide in developing policy and procedures to operate facilities and manage the system. These standards, developed by experts in the industry, and some by case law, are national standards and have been determined best practices. By incorporating these standards into DOD policies and procedures, and daily operations, DOD facilities have become more efficient and safer for inmates and staff. These standards have lead to policy and operational consistency across the military correctional system. Standards require post orders, which improve consistency among correctional officers at military facilities that rotate staff every one to three years. The standards provide leaders with management tools to use in developing procedures, setting goals and objectives, and managing staff training. Standards improve compliance levels with and support from other disciplines such as fire, safety and health. The military has used ACA standards as one of its references for policy, procedure and daily operations for its detainee facilities overseas.

The accreditation process has provided standards to design and renovate DOD facilities. All new military facilities established since ACA standards were developed have been designed to meet those standards. The standards were used to support and develop new facility design requirements and ensured DOD met fire-life-safety standards. 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. DOD correctional leaders were always able to use ACA standards as the industry standard.

Accreditation requires that internal monitoring methods be established to ensure the facility complies with service regulations, national standards, best practices, annual reviews of operations, programs, fire-safety procedures, training needs, etc. Accreditation assists commanders by providing a checklist to determine strengths and weaknesses; a system to measure performance and track trends. …