Correctional Accreditation Recommendation

The following was presented to the Community Criminal Justice Board on 29 August 2016:

Accreditation improves public confidence in correctional facilities which meet accepted national standards designed to safeguard the life and health of personnel and offenders. It serves as a means to implement these standards in all aspects of offender management, conditions of confinement and delivery of health services. It reduces exposure to costly liability and recognizes an institution’s commitment to meeting quality goals and employing evidence-based practices. The accreditation process, typically completed within two years and costing less than $20,000, provides correctional institutions tools to fortify their policies and procedures consistent with nationally recognized standards and practices. Following a professionally assisted self-study, surveyors from the accrediting organizations conduct an extensive on-site review and bring years of experience and familiarity with national standards and best practices. The primary accrediting organizations, which establish the industry benchmarks, are the American Correctional Association (ACA) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). Although a number of local and regional jails across the Commonwealth are accredited by one or both organizations, neither of our local facilities is accredited.

Benefits of accreditation include:

  1. Improvement of staff morale and promotion of professional excellence.
  2. Reduction in litigation relative to inmate health care and conditions of confinement.
  3. Establishment of good-faith efforts to improve management and operational policies.
  4. Justification for budget requests.
  5. Application of accepted national standards through facility self-governance.
  6. Development of institutional pride from completing a rigorous review process.
  7. Compliance monitored by an independent oversight board.

Recognizing that the accreditation process is less than perfect and may well not change the philosophies of individual correctional administrators, it nevertheless provides accountability, reduces liability and can be an effective catalyst for cultural shifts.

Therefore, Valley Justice Coalition respectfully requests that the Community Criminal Justice Board recommend to the Harrisonburg City Council and the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors that both Rockingham-Harrisonburg Regional Jail and Middle River Regional Jail begin immediately to pursue national accreditation and that sufficient funds be allocated to support that process.

For further information on NCCHC Accreditation, see this brochure, as well as a list of reasons to pursue accreditation provided by NCCHC.

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