Five California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisons were certified by the American Correctional Association (ACA) during its 143rd Congress of Correction in National Harbor, Maryland.

Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, High Desert State Prison in Susanville, Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, North Kern State Prison in Delano and Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City received near-perfect scores by the ACA, the oldest, most respected and largest international correctional association in the world.

“These hard-earned accreditations are only awarded to the best of the best in corrections,” said CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard. “The ACA was aware of the class action litigation against California, so it sent its most experienced auditors to review these prisons.

“Their findings demonstrate these institutions are providing quality health care and inmate programs and are employing the proper use of segregation,” Secretary Beard said. “These accreditations are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff.”

“It is an honor for Mule Creek State Prison to be recognized and certified by the ACA,” MCSP Warden William Knipp said. “This certification is a direct reflection of our entire institution, its dedicated employees and the teamwork they all engage in daily.

“It assures us that we are on the right path as we move forward in today’s corrections and continue to provide public safety to the citizens of California,” Knipp said.

For more than 135 years, the ACA has been the recognized expert in establishing measurable standards which are the benchmarks for the effective operation of correctional facilities throughout the nation.

“The ACA review raised the bar here and all our employees rose to the challenge,” Correctional Training Facility Warden Marion Spearman said. “I am truly proud and honored to work with such hardworking employees.”

The accreditation audit is a comprehensive review, encompassing every area of prison operations. These operations include administration and management, fiscal controls, the physical plant, conditions of confinement, rules and discipline, inmate programs, health care, food service, sanitation, safety and emergency procedures, use of segregation, incidents of violence, crowding, offender activity levels, staff training and development, and the provision of basic services that can affect the life, safety and health of inmates and staff.

“This accreditation is confirmation of what our staff already know about the appropriate and professional way we conduct business,” Pelican Bay State Prison Warden Gregory D. Lewis said. “It is proof our policies, procedures and practices are safe, secure and humane consistent with national best practices and standards.”

Institutions seeking accreditation have to comply with 521 ACA standards and score 100 percent for 61 mandatory requirements and at least 90 percent on 460 non-mandatory requirements. Roughly half of the mandatory standards address health care.

Since last fall, ACA standards compliance audit teams visited the five prisons and conducted comprehensive on-site audits of all aspects of prison operations. The teams found that all five prisons met all of the mandatory requirements and all five significantly exceeded the 90 percent mark for non-mandatory items.

Correctional Training Facility received 97.91 percent, High Desert State Prison received 99.06 percent, Mule Creek State Prison received 98.8 percent, North Kern State Prison received 97.66 percent, and Pelican Bay State Prison received 97.2 percent.

“The ACA certification process has been a great experience,” High Desert State Prison Warden Fred Foulk said. “Our staff did an outstanding job preparing for the audit. Their dedication to policy, procedure and professionalism is directly reflected in their receiving a 99.06 percent score.”

“The ACA audit and review was a collaborative effort by all North Kern State Prison staff to ensure the institution is clean, policies are being followed and all employees know their roles in our operations,” NKSP Warden Sandra Pennywell said. “Our 97.66 percent score is proof of the hard work our staff put into this process.”

CDCR began the process of seeking nationally recognized accreditation from the ACA in 2010. California State Prison-Sacramento, California State Prison-Solano and Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla were the first CDCR prisons to be accredited by the ACA in 2012 with each achieving 98.6 percent, 99 percent and 98.16 percent. Once accredited, a prison has to maintain accreditation for three years.

Next year, Centinela State Prison, Folsom State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, Sierra Conservation Center and Wasco State Prison-Reception Center will be audited by the ACA for accreditation, will begin preparation for the formal training visits by an ACA auditor and will work with CDCR’s Adult Compliance/Peer Review Branch of the Office of Audits and Court Compliance, which provides departmental oversight of the ACA review process.