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CALEA: Commission on Law Enforcement Accreditation

The Law Enforcement Accreditation Program was the first credentialing program established by CALEA after its founding. It was originally developed to address what was seen as a need to enhance law enforcement as a profession and to improve law enforcement service delivery.

CALEA is open to all types of law enforcement agencies, on an international basis. It provides a process to systematically conduct an internal review and assessment of the agencies’ policies and procedures, and make adjustments wherever necessary to meet a body of internationally accepted standards.

Since the first CALEA Accreditation Award was granted in 1984, the program has become the primary method for an agency to voluntarily demonstrate their commitment to excellence in law enforcement. The standards upon which the Law Enforcement Accreditation Program is based reflect the current thinking and experience of law enforcement practitioners and researchers. Major law enforcement associations, leading educational and training institutions, governmental agencies, as well as law enforcement executives internationally, acknowledge CALEA’s Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies and its Accreditation Programs as benchmarks for professional law enforcement agencies.

CALEA Accreditation requires an agency to develop a comprehensive, well thought out, uniform set of written directives. This is one of the most successful methods for reaching administrative and operational goals, while also providing direction to personnel.

  • CALEA Accreditation standards provide the necessary reports and analyses a CEO needs to make fact-based, informed management decisions.
  • CALEA Accreditation requires a preparedness program be put in place so an agency is ready to address natural or man-made unusual occurrences.
  • CALEA Accreditation is a means for developing or improving upon an agency’s relationship with the community.
  • CALEA Accreditation strengthens an agency’s accountability, both within the agency and the community, through a continuum of standards that clearly define authority, performance, and responsibilities.
  • Being CALEA Accredited can limit an agency’s liability and risk exposure because it demonstrates that internationally recognized standards for law enforcement have been met, as verified by a team of independent outside CALEA-trained assessors.
  • CALEA Accreditation facilitates an agency’s pursuit of professional excellence.

As the CALEA process directly relates to NCSO:

NCSO entered into a contract with CALEA on 5/22/2015. Our on-site assessment was scheduled in 06/2016 for the actual on-site date of 11/28/2016. CALEA is typically a 3 year process; however, NCSO was able to complete this daunting task in under a year.

During the on-site, we received recommendation for accreditation. NCSO will be awarded the official accreditation at the CALEA conference in March 2017.

State Certification Process
Certification is a progressive and time-proven way of helping law enforcement agencies calculate and improve their overall performances. The foundation of certificationlies in the promulgation of standards containing a clear statement of professional objectives. Participating agencies conduct a thorough self-analysis to determine how existing operations can be adapted to meet these objectives. When the procedures are in place, a team of trained assessors verifies that applicable standards have been successfully implemented. The process culminates with a decision by a joint executive committee that the agency has met the requirements for certification.

Certification status represents a significant professional achievement. Certification acknowledges the implementation of policies and procedures that are conceptually sound and operationally effective.

The benefits of certification include:

  • Confirmation that agency practices are consistent with progressive professional standards
  • Greater operational and administrative effectiveness
  • Enhanced understanding of agency policies and practices
  • Greater public confidence in the agency
  • Recognition in the field of outstanding achievement
  • Reduced liability potential
  • Greater governmental and community support
As the State Cert process directly relates to NCSO:
The NCSO received initial state certification in 2012 and gained re-certification in 2015. Our next re-accreditation on-site will be May 2018.

ACA: American Correctional Association
The first organized attempt to formulate standards for prisons occurred in 1870 at a conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference, “The Congress on Penitentiary and Reformatory Discipline” became the organizing meeting of the National Prison Association.

Standards were developed for prisons during the 1940’s and 1950’s. However, no method for verification of compliance was yet available.  ACA appointed a subcommittee to assemble and to publish the first standards manuals.

During the 1960’s, ACA began the development of the national correctional standards that exist today. The goals of the standards were to prescribe the best possible practices that could be achieved in the United States, while being both realistic and practical.

Created in 1974, the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections (CAC) became the official accrediting body of the American Correctional Association; it is the official arbiter of accreditation status for all facilities and agencies.  The Commission is comprised of a representative body of corrections professionals from all areas of the field: Adult corrections and detention, juvenile corrections and detention, community corrections, probation, parole, and correctional health services.
ACA accreditation is intended to improve facility operations through adherence to clear standards relevant to all areas/operations of the facility, including safety, security, order, inmate care, programs, justice, and administration.  The Standards and Accreditation department’s staff facilitates the accreditation process from initial contact through assessment, contracting, preparation, the accreditation audit, and lastly the appearance before the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections for a final accreditation decision.

Accreditation identifies those programs which offer a solid foundation of health, safety, and program. The award solidifies proof of your accountability, credibility, and commitment.

Currently, ACA, through the Commission, accredits more than 1,300 facilities across the United States and the world.  These include Federal, state, local, and private facilities of all types and sizes under ACA’s standards.

What are Standards?
Since 1954, the American Correctional Association has published operational standards designed to enhance correctional practices for the benefit of inmates, staff, administrators, and the public. In the decades since the Manual on Correctional Standards- First Edition was created, the Association has diversified and expended its standards and today publishes 22 different manuals for all areas of the field of corrections. This includes dedicated manuals for the operation of differing facility types, including prisons, jails, juvenile correctional facilities, juvenile detention facilities, probation/parole agencies, halfway houses, and others. Across the United States and the world, the ACA standards have been integrated into routine operations. Tens of thousands of staff and inmates are impacted by the ACA standards on a daily basis.
Since their inception, the ACA standards have served to establish a fundamental operational structure for facilities and agencies that have implemented them.  ACA standards interface with all aspects of operations, including safety, security, order, care, programs, justice, and administration, among others. While ACA standards provide guidelines for these areas and require the existence of some specific practices or conditions, they are designed to facilitate the development of independent agency policy and procedure that govern the agency’s everyday operations.  Since the mid-2000s, ACA standards have gradually migrated to a “performance-based” model in which agencies collect, track, and analyze internal outcomes related to each standard in order to gage their performance and adjust their operations accordingly. This model has proven to be a successful method of improving agency operations through the use of real-time data with an immediate and significant impact on inmates, staff, and administrators throughout the facility or agency.

ACA standards guide operations in every area of the facility of agency.  Secure facilities such as jails and prisons must operate effectively as self-contained communities in which all necessary goods and services are provided in a safe, secure, and controlled manner.  ACA standards relating to safety require adherence to all federal, state, and local fire and safety codes; emergency planning and preparation; and the provision of related training and materials for staff and inmates.  Security standards mandate inspections and training of all firearms and armed officers; visitor and staff searches and tracking procedures; and inmate counting and tracking procedures.  Other sections throughout each manual regulate policy, procedure, and practice at a similar level for other institutional or facility activities.
ACA standards are divided into two categories: mandatory and non-mandatory standards.  In order to be accredited, facilities must meet the requirements for all applicable mandatory standards and 90% of applicable non-mandatory standards.

NCSO is awarded accreditation through the American Correctional Association (ACA)
November 2-4, 2015, the Newton County Detention Center experienced it’s first standards compliance audit from The American Correctional Association.

A team of three auditors spent time with and assessed the NCSO facility through audits, reviews, hearings and evaluations to ensure the agency was in compliance with the nationally established standards. The entire inspection was based upon 383 standards that were thoroughly analyzed by the auditors.

The 383 standards consisted of 60 Mandatory standards that involved life, health and safety issues, which had to be passed with a score of 100 percent and 323 Non-Mandatory standards which had to be passed with a score of 80 percent.

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office received a score of 100 percent on Mandatory standards and a 100 percent on Non-Mandatory standards and was awarded the accreditation in January 2016 at the American Correctional Association (ACA) winter conference.

NCCHC – National Commission on Correctional Health Care
The mission of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care is to improve the quality of health care in jails, prisons and juvenile confinement facilities.

NCCHC's origins date to the early 1970s, when an American Medical Association study of jails found inadequate, disorganized health services and a lack of national standards. In collaboration with other organizations, the AMA established a program that in 1983 became NCCHC, an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose early mission was to evaluate and develop policy and programs.

Today, NCCHC's leadership in setting standards for health services in correctional facilities is widely recognized. Established by the health, legal and corrections professions, NCCHC's Standards present recommendations for the management of a correctional health services system.

These essential resources have helped correctional and detention facilities improve the health of their inmates and the communities to which they return, increase the efficiency of health services delivery, strengthen organizational effectiveness and reduce the risk of adverse legal judgments.

NCCHC Accreditation
NCCHC has offered a voluntary health services accreditation program since the 1970s. Based on its Standards, the process uses external peer review to determine whether correctional institutions meet the standards in provision of health services. NCCHC renders a professional judgment and assists in the improvement of services provided. NCCHC also signals a constitutionally acceptable level of care for a facility’s inmates, which translates into improved health status, fewer grievances and lawsuits, and reduced health risk to the community when inmates are released.

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office went through an audit November 2013 and was awarded NCCHC Accreditation at the winter conference February 2014.  Recertification of NCCHC Accreditation was awarded December 2016. The second recertification date will be in 2019.

When a correctional facility achieves NCCHC accreditation, the message is clear: Its leaders are committed to providing a nationally accepted standard of care in health services delivery.

Lieutenant Selena Williams
Detention Accreditation


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