By OPEC Staff

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) achieved a significant milestone in its quest for correctional excellence when three of its prisons were certified today by the American Correctional Association (ACA) during the 142nd Congress of Correction in Denver, Colorado.

California State Prison-Sacramento (SAC), California State Prison-Solano (SOL) and Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla were given nearly perfect scores by the ACA, the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world. The association has been recognized for more than 135 years and is the expert in establishing measurable standards in prison management and providing certification of correctional facilities.

“This certified accreditation validates our efforts toward reaching the strategic goal of making California safer through correctional excellence,” CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said. “This is evidence of our compliance with national best practices which will also position us to end expensive federal court oversight of many of our operations.”

CDCR began the process of seeking nationally recognized accreditation from the ACA in late 2010 for SAC, CCWF and SOL. Staff at the prisons and CDCR headquarters conducted self-assessments and on-site pre-reviews and provided other information.

“I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, primarily because of the effort put forth by our staff,” SAC Warden Tim Virga said. “They were challenged with an unfamiliar task. They pulled together, worked hard and were successful.”

CCWF Acting Warden Debra Johnson agreed. “The effort made by all of the disciplines at CCWF, including educators, vocational instructors and supervisors, and health-care employees, is an astounding accomplishment,” she said.

In April and May 2012, ACA standards compliance audit teams visited the three prisons to conduct comprehensive on-site audits of all aspects of prison operations, including health-care services. The prisons had to comply with 61 mandatory requirements and reach a 90 percent compliance rating in 468 non-mandatory areas.

Some of the areas the ACA audit teams rigorously assessed included management, the physical plant, operations, services, inmate programs, medical services, sanitation, incidents of violence, staff training, and the provision of basic services that can affect the life, safety and health of inmates and staff.

The audits found that 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.

“Solano received a passing score of 99 percent and was the first to give a presentation during the conference,” SOL Warden Gary Swarthout said. “The accreditation validates the hard work all staff put forth in striving for excellence and professionalism within the correctional field and complying with national best practices in every department.”

“The ACA validated that our prison is running extremely efficient and we will continue to do so,” Acting CCWF Warden Johnson said.

CDCR will seek accreditation for all of its facilities. During the next year, Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, High Desert State Prison in Susanville and Kern Valley State Prison in Delano will be audited by the ACA. These five prisons will begin preparation in August 2012 with a formal training visit by an ACA auditor.

“The accreditation of these three prisons, and ultimately all state prisons, will help California regain its place as a national leader in corrections,” said CDCR Undersecretary of Operations Terri McDonald.  “This is a proud day for those prisons and the entire Department.”

“As an institution, we are proud to have played an early role in the future success the accreditation will bring to CDCR,” SAC Warden Virga said.