By Terry Thornton, Deputy Press Secretary | OPEC

Three California prisons are on the verge of being certified by the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world. 

Two years ago, CDCR identified several goals and strategic initiatives to make California safer through correctional excellence and has made significant progress in reducing overcrowding; providing a constitutional level of health care, mental health treatment and dental treatment for inmates; increasing rehabilitation; and improving services to victims of crime and juvenile offenders.

To achieve some of these goals, CDCR adopted national standards. To measure its performance, the department is submitting its prisons for review by the American Correctional Association (ACA).
For more than 135 years, the ACA has been the recognized expert in establishing measurable standards in prison management and providing certification of facilities after a rigorous audit and review of proof of practice for compliance.

In late 2010, CDCR began the process of seeking nationally recognized accreditation from the ACA. The first prisons were California State Prison-Sacramento, Central California Women’s Facility and California State Prison-Solano.  In the first step, staff at the prisons and CDCR headquarters conducted self-assessments and on-site reviews and provided other information.

In April and May of this year, ACA standards compliance audit teams visited the three prisons to conduct on-site evaluations. These audits were a comprehensive review of all aspects of prison operations, including health-care services. The audits were conducted by three separate teams of auditors. The prisons had to comply with 61 mandatory requirements and reach a 90 percent compliance rating in 468 non-mandatory areas.
The ACA audit teams assessed management, the physical plant, operations, services, inmate programs, medical services, sanitation, incidents of violence, staff training and the provision of basic services that may affect the life, safety and health of inmates and staff.

During the standards compliance audits, all three prisons met all of the mandatory requirements and all three significantly exceeded the 90 percent mark for non-mandatory items. California State Prison-Solano achieved 99 percent, California State Prison-Sacramento achieved 98.6 percent and Central California Women’s Facility achieved 98.16 percent.

“While we are extremely pleased with the initial findings, the accreditation process is not complete and must be approved and certified by the ACA Accreditation Committee,” CDCR Undersecretary Terri McDonald said.

The three prisons will be presented for official accreditation in July 2012. Prisons achieving accreditation will be announced at the ACA’s 142nd Congress of Correction, July 20-25, in Denver.

CDCR is committed to seeking accreditation for all of its facilities. During the next year, Correctional Training Facility, Mule Creek State Prison, Pelican Bay State Prison, North Kern State Prison and Kern Valley State Prison will be audited by the ACA. These five prisons will begin preparation in August with a formal training visit by an ACA auditor.  The audits are scheduled to start in February 2013.

“The accreditation of all CDCR facilities will ensure we achieve our goal of modeling correctional leadership and complying with national best practices,” McDonald said.

View photos of Staff Appreciation Day at SVSP, honoring CDCR employees for this accreditation accomplishment.