ACA Audits Drive "Mohr" Than Accreditation in Ohio
Albright, Andrew, Corrections Today
An effective strategy to preserve ACA accreditation is to regularly monitor standard compliance levels through internal audits. Since becoming involved with ACA accreditation in the 1980s, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has developed an annual internal management audit system that is intensive, yet expanded well beyond the scope of ACA standards. Though ACA accreditation built the foundation for this important internal quality improvement mechanism, ODRC has amplified the benefits of reaccreditation. In 2012, ODRC will not only use the internal audit process to gauge facility compliance levels with all applicable ACA standards, but it will also link the audit process to other department initiatives; focus on stabilizing and reducing the rate of recidivism (currently 31.2 percent); rebuild the unit management model of prison management within higher security facilities; and satisfy the successful conclusion of a multiyear class action medical settlement agreement. To depict the benefits of an organized internal audit strategy, this article outlines challenges faced by ODRC, the proactive plans developed to remedy these challenges and the important connection between the audit processes driving the successful execution of these plans.
Facing an $8 Billion Budget Gap
In January 2011, Ohio's new governor, John Kasich, made it clear that government agencies were going to have to think and do things differently in order to successfully pull out of the difficult economic conditions Ohio was experiencing. The state of Ohio was facing an $8 billion budget gap that had to be filled. Kasich had a plan to close the gap, but the strategy did not provide blanket orders for state agencies to cut their budgets through traditional measures. Rather, Kasich charged his cabinet members to challenge themselves by restructuring their agencies in ways that would successfully achieve core missions, while also being fiscally responsible by not relying upon the assistance of federal stimulus. For ODRC, this translated into having to reduce its next biennium budget by $300 million. The initial reports of Kasich's plans for ODRC indicated very aggressive measures that included the possibility of closing multiple correctional facilities and transferring thousands of inmates to out-of-state private facilities. The actual strategies would soon be developed and implemented by Kasich's newly appointed ODRC director, Gary C. Mohr. Mohr's strategies would have to meet the fiscal needs of the governor's aggressive state budget plan, support statewide economic stimulation efforts (i.e. reducing unemployment rates), and sustain ODRC's core mission of providing public safety and reducing the rate of recidivism.
Entering a Correctional System with Challenging Indicators
Mohr relayed ODRC's intentions to continue their longstanding commitment to the accreditation process. However, challenging indicators shaped his most immediate priority to stabilize and reduce incidents of inmate violence and group disturbances within Ohio's correctional facilities. Facilities were experiencing violent incidents and disturbances at a significantly elevated rate from previous years. Some contributing factors to the problems were the large volume of agency-wide transitions experienced due to major budget reductions imposed every year since 2001. During the past decade, budget reduction measures have resulted in the closing of two large correctional institutions, each with populations of more than 1,500; staff reduction actions on numbers exceeding 3,500 positions; implementation of staff salary freezes/furloughs; the abolishment of the unit management model in high-security institutions; and countless other budget-related initiatives that redesigned the agency's structure. Other contributing factors included changes in the type of inmates being committed, mandatory sentencing laws, and high turnover rates with experienced staff through early retirement incentives. …