Across the nation and in Canada, more than 1,500 correctional facilities have or are in the process of obtaining accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA), widely seen as one of the highest standards for jails and prisons. The Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail (ACRJ) has plans in the works to join that number.
"We are in the process of making an application to ACA," says Major Roland Beauford, ACRJ’s deputy superintendent. "We’re going to look at the [standard operating procedures] here to see if each one is still applicable."
"Once you have [ACA accreditation], you don’t have to worry about anything else, because you’re doing above and beyond what is required," says Gequetta G. Murray-Key, a staff member at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
To receive ACA accreditation, facilities must surpass state Department of Correction standards in areas like inmate services and programs, administrative and fiscal controls and discipline. The accreditation process usually takes 12 to 18 months, though Beauford says getting the accreditation is something staff has been thinking about for years.
"We got started once and got slowed down because the building wasn’t fitted for ACA at that time," he says. "But now we’re a little bit more progressive towards being able to reach a goal." Because ACA is a nationally validated system, says Beauford, it provides a better defense for the facility against lawsuits.
ACA is not a government agency but rather an independent organization. It bills itself as the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world.
"Once you have [ACA accreditation], you don’t have to worry about anything else, because you’re doing above and beyond what is required," says Gequetta G. Murray-Key, a staff member at ACDJ. "We want to say to the community, and any inmate that comes here, ‘You may be incarcerated, but we’re not violating your rights. We’re going to give you beyond what is required.’"
Murray-Key says that there are not major changes ACDJ needs to make to gain accreditation, though because sections of the jail were built at different times, there will be challenges. The older half of the jail was built before ACA adopted some of its requirements, though it will waive a limited number of structural deficiencies.
"The way this room is designed," she says, looking at the meeting room where jail board members mill around after their monthly meeting, "we can do everything right, but because it’s not wide enough…those can be the things that can cause us not to meet the accreditation, not that we’re not doing something, but just the physical design."
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