If you care about your tax dollars being well spent, you’ll be interested in the results of the most recent re-accreditation audit by the American Correctional Association at the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility last month.

The facility earned a 100 percent rating on every one of the 53 mandatory and 404 non-mandatory standards it was required to meet, according to published reports.

The audit results, given to local officials in the form of a report, do not automatically grant re accreditation.

The facility inspectors serve as the eyes and ears of the American Correctional Association. The inspectors tour the facility, review operations, go home and then write their report.

That report goes to the ACA’s accreditation committee. Regional corrections officials then meet with the committee, which discusses the report finding with them. Then, if the report is satisfactory, the ACA grants re-accreditation.

The American Correctional Association (ACA), a private non-profit organization composed mostly of current and former corrections officials, accredits over 900 prisons, jails, community residential centers (halfway houses), and various other corrections facilities in the U.S. and internationally, using their independently published standards manuals.

Approximately 80 percent of all U.S. state departments of corrections and youth services are active participants. Also included are programs and facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the private sector, according to published reports. Mississippi law requires all prison facilities in the state be accredited.

ACA functions as the closest thing the United States has to a national regulatory body for prisons in addition to being the American correctional industry’s trade association.

The accreditation process is basically a paper review. The ACA does not provide oversight or ongoing monitoring of correctional facilities, but only verifies whether a facility has policies that comply with the ACA’s standards at the time of accreditation. Following initial accreditation, facilities are examined for re-accredited at three-year intervals.

ACA isn’t a “silver bullet” – not a guaranteed “stay out of jail” procedure for prison administrators. The ACA has its critics. Some ACA certified facilities have still had serious problems – Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky, and the privately-operated Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi come to mind.

The accreditation inspections aren’t free. The ACA charges fees depending on the number of days and auditors involved and the number of facilities being accredited, according to reports. Chickasaw’s inspection cost about $14,000.

Still, staying out of trouble is easier – and generally cheaper – than getting out of it. The ACA guidelines are designed to help prison administrators avoid lawsuits and other legal actions which can be expensive to defend, win, lose or settle.

Larry Gallaher, one of the inspectors, termed the Chickasaw regional facility’s scores “remarkable,” and added, “you have one of the finest correctional facilities in the country.”

He doesn’t foresee any problem with the facility being re-accredited; Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility officials will likely go in front of the ACA board in January to learn that news.

The inspection results speak well for Sheriff Jim Meyers and his staff, who are responsible for the regional facility, which opened about 2011, and has never had an escape.

Bottom line: The facility is being well run, according to the ACA, and that ought to be a source of some comfort – if there is such a thing in jail – to the approximately 310 inmates in the facility, and a source of comfort, and security, to the taxpayers whose money helps maintain it.

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