The accreditation process offers the opportunity to evaluate operations against national standards, remedy deficiencies, and upgrade the quality of correctional programs and services.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office participates in the accreditation process with the American Correctional Association (ACA) and National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts inspections which are based on many of the same standards through the accreditation process. The United States Department of Justice passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003. In order for correctional facilities to be considered compliant, they are required to be audited by certified Department of Justice auditors every three years.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has been participating in the accreditation process since 1992. Since then, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has received its most recent ACA Re-Accreditation in January, 2015, and NCCHC Re-Accreditation in May, 2015. The ICE inspections began in 2008, and we successfully completed our annual inspection in May, 2014.
Benefits of Accreditation
- Ensures compliance with nationally adopted standards
- Establishes guidelines for daily operations
- Reduces costly and time consuming litigation
- Improves community support
- Provides basis for enhanced funding
- Assesses our strengths and weaknesses
- Provides a system of checks and balances
- Builds staff/offender morale
- Safer environment for staff and offenders
- Ensures policies & procedures are current
- Promotes systematic review
- Clarifies expectations for staff
- Strengthens crime prevention and control capabilities
- Formalizes essential management procedures
- Establishes fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices
- Improves service delivery
- Solidifies interagency cooperation and coordination
- Increases the efficiency of health services delivery
- Strengthens organizational effectiveness
The accreditation/inspection process is a combination of “process” and “proof.”
The most important commitment comes from not only the Sheriff, Undersheriff and their Command Staff, but the employees as a whole. The Command Staff oversee the entire process to ensure compliance of the standards through the management of the Accreditation staff. However, it is the employees who work in the field that make the process successful.
Accreditation and inspections are a team effort. All employees and outside service providers are committed to the process and understand the goals, objectives and reasons for maintaining our accreditation and passing our inspections. Employees and outside service providers participate in training that teaches the importance of accreditation and inspections.
The process of meeting or exceeding the ACA and NCCHC standards and passing the ICE inspections does create occasional internal tension. However, the process of meeting the standards today is viewed by the organization as “doing business as usual,” thereby eliminating much of the tension.
Employees are held accountable in the accreditation and inspection process. All employees are part of the process; however, only one individual is assigned to be ultimately responsible for a given outcome. A process is in place to ensure that this one individual is held accountable from “process to proof.” This refers to the organization following the written standard and proving the standard with appropriate documentation through policy and procedure.
Our organization conducts a self-evaluation, and has a standards compliance audit by trained consultants prior to an accreditation or passing inspection decision for ACA and NCCHC by the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections and for ICE by the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations-Detention Management.
The initial process of accreditation normally takes 12 to 18 months to complete. Accreditation is granted for a period of three years; however, maintenance of accreditation is an ongoing task. Once accredited, the organization submits annual certification requirements. ICE inspections are conducted annually.
The American Correctional Association (ACA) -
ACA is a private, non-profit organization that administers the only national accreditation program for all components of adult and juvenile corrections.
Accreditation, a process that began in 1978, involves approximately 80% of all state departments of corrections and youth services as active participants. Also included are programs and facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the US Parole Commission and the District of Columbia. The accreditation program offers the opportunity to evaluate operations against national standards, remedy deficiencies, and upgrade the quality of correctional programs and services.
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) –
The Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to improving the quality of health care in jails, prisons, and juvenile confinement facilities.
The American Medical Association, in collaboration with other organizations, established a program in the early 1970’s that later became the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Their mission is to evaluate and develop policy and programs that help correctional and detention facilities improve the health of their inmates and the communities to which they return.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) –
ICE entered into an Inter-Governmental Service Agreement in 2008 with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for the detention and care of ICE detainees. Detainees placed in custody represent nearly every country in the world, various security classifications, all genders and medical conditions. ICE detainees are not charged with criminal violations and are only held in custody to assure their presence throughout the administrative hearing process and for removal from the United States pursuant to a lawful final order by the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals or other Federal Judicial Court.
ICE ensures its contracted facilities follow ICE National Detention Standards through an aggressive inspection program, and ensures that detainees in ICE custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement.