ESSEX COUNTY, GRIEVES THE ACA ACCREDITATION, ICE CONTRACT, FALSIFYING TRAINING RECORDS AND QUOTAS ON INMATE DISCIPLINE
Essex County PBA has again butt heads with the Essex County Administration, this time over the ACA accreditation process and the impact it has on his union members. The President was the driving force in exposing the CEC (Community Education Center), Delaney and Logan Hall scandal which, after an 8 year battle, finally led to Senate Hearings in July of 2012. The President has no problem making enemies in Essex County to improve the working conditions of his members. A seasoned leader, has again uncovered another sham by the Administration to win federal contract monies to house ICE inmates to the detriment of his officers.
What is the ACA? American Correctional Association
The ACA is a private non-governmental organization composed of current and former corrections employees, which offers voluntary accreditation of detention facilities based on the ACA's self-created standards. There is no oversight or regulation of the organization beyond its own staff.
The Deputy Executive Director, Jeff Washington, testified before the Commission on Safety and Abuse that the organization represents all facets of corrections including, federal, state, military correctional facilities, prisons, county jails, detention centers, probation and parole agencies, community corrections, halfway houses, corrections officers. The ACA promotes public policy as it relates to corrections and develops its own standards and accreditation process.
"As I've reported several times, the ACA as an ORGANIZATION and the USELESSNESS of being ACA Accredited is mind boggling to me due to the fact that this organization HOLDS NO LAWFUL AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER and is simply some sort of SELF APPOINTED GROUP of self appointed and SUPPOSED EXPERTS who travel the country giving jails and prisons the white glove test."
Basically there is no oversight of this group and they are not subject to any legal authority. Note that the ACA offers "voluntary accreditation", but the federal ICE contract has made the accreditation mandatory. Is that enforceable? Who in the federal government made it mandatory and what are their ties to the ACA?
What is the value of the ACA accreditation?
It appears that part of the criteria of housing federal inmates is that the facility receive ACA accreditation. Although we have not seen the specific language, it appears that the ICE Contract is overly demanding on the County facility and displacing corrections officers causing rifts between those assigned to the federal inmates as opposed to those assigned to the county inmates. All county corrections officers are employed under the same collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which the County is not honoring. Most recently the County was taken to arbitration over the matter and told by the arbitrator that state laws, not federal, are applicable to the county employees. This fell on deaf ears as the County blatantly and arbitrarily violated the arbitrator's decision and catered instead to the ICE Contract. Click here to read the details
What is the CCA? Correctional Corporation of American (Private Prisons)
CCA is a privatized prison system, they market themselves as "partnership prisons". "They provide the best of both worlds, the oversight and accountability of government with the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the marketplace."
More importantly, they market themselves as living up to government standards as they boast the ACA accreditation:
From CCA's Brochure:
"CCA upholds federal, state, city and county guidelines. We also enforce our own strict code or operational standards and oversight provisions. We also observe institutional policies, industry best practices and accreditation standards set by the American Correctional Association (ACA), which represents the highest correctional standards in America today. That means every CCA facility operates under nearly 500 rigorous ACA standards - every hour of every day."
How far will Essex County go to obtain the accreditation?
As summarized by the PBA in numerous grievances, Essex County has gone as far as to order officers to sign documents stating they received training that they never received and were threatened with disciplinary action if they refused to falsify the training documents. Apparently this is not a unique idea unto Essex County as a former CCA employee from the Southern Nevada Correctional Facility admitted to doing the same thing.
In an article published on July 9, 2010, one former CCA employee, Donna Como, who served as an accreditation manager, candidly admitted that she helped falsify documents for an ACA audit. "I was the person who doctored the ACA accreditation reports for this company, " she stated in December 2008, referring to her employment at the CCA-operated Southern Nevada Correctional Facility.
ACA accreditation is based largely on the documentation provided by the correctional agency being examined, and whether it has certain policies in place - not necessarily on whether or not it follows those policies. This is where the problems come into play.
Amato further reports that Essex County has made inmate discipline mandatory as officers are instructed to write up five inmates a day in an effort to pad the numbers in the documentation that is turned over to the ACA. (I can imagine the ACLU will have a field day with that!)
Has the PBA uncovered yet another money making "pay-to-play"scheme?
It certainly appears that the PBA has uncovered another money making scheme similar to the one the CEC was running with Delaney and Logan Halls. It is ironic that the nonsense with the CEC also involved a "non-profit" with similar initials "EHCA" filtering money for the profit. Here we have the ACA and the CAC (Commission on Accreditation for Corrections) as the non-profit, and let's not forget the CCA (Correctional Corporation of America).
On August 1, 2012, the CCA (Correctional Corporation of America), which runs private prisons, reported that several of its facilities received a 98% rating for "safety and security" and it rounded off 2011 with a net income of $40.5 million in earnings.
The American Correctional Association (ACA) re-accredited 14 CCA facilities with ratings above 98 percent earlier in 2012, with seven facilities receiving a "perfect score" of 100 percent. Below are the realities for several CCA facilities with exceptionally high scores:
North Folk Correctional Facility, Oklahoma - 100 Percent:
North Folk was given an accreditation of 100 percent only three months after the rural Oklahoma prison was the center of a riot over food in October 2011. More than 100 inmates were involved. Prior to the disturbance, they had requested to speak to the warden about the quality of the food. CNN reported that at one point the riots had gotten so bad that a morgue had been set up outside the prison, though no fatalities were reported. Only California prisoners are housed at North Folk.
Stewart Detention Center, Georgia - 98.4 Percent:
Stewart had the lowest score of all the detention facilities CCA chose to highlight - 98.4 percent. But a recently released report by the ACLU of Georgia shows that the facility did not feed prisoners enough, was overcrowded, had extreme temperatures, unclean clothing and a harsh disciplinary policy. Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security and Immigrant Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia, called the score "perplexing." Shahshahani said: "I wonder if any effort was made to speak to the detainees honestly and without fear about the treatment they are receiving. We continue to get complaints from the detainees at Stewart."
Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, Mississippi - 100 Percent
Tallahatchie saw a disturbance at its immigration facility six months after the accreditation. The uprising left one prison guard dead.
Two prisoners were murdered at CCA's Saguaro Correctional Center in Elroy, Arizona, which is ACA-accredited;
CCA's ACA-accredited Idaho Correctional Center was the subject of an ACLU class-action lawsuit that described systemic violence condoned by the CCA staff;
Both Hawaii and Kentucky prison officials removed their female prisoners from the CCA operated Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky, which is also ACA accredited, following a sex abuse scandal in which six CCA employees were charged with sexually abusing or raping prisoners.
The answer is simple, whatever it wants. Or whatever it pays for.
A three-year accreditation from the ACA costs $3,000 per day and $1,500 dollars for each auditor on the team. The team of auditors form the CAC (Commission on Accreditation for Corrections) as the non-profit. In 2010, the CCA paid $22,500 to the ACA in order to obtain re-accreditation at five of the company's prisons as announced in CCA's July 9th press release. In 2009, CCA paid at least $63,000 to have 13 facilities accredited. This on top of falsifying training records.
The CCA notes on its web site that over 93 percent of its 60 facilities have passed an audit done every three years by the ACA. The ACA's president-elect, Davidson County, Tennessee Sheriff Daron Hall, is a former CCA program director, and at least two CCA employees serve as ACA auditors - CCA warden Todd Thomas and company vice president Dennis Bradby. Can you say "play to pay"?
Below are links to the ACA Manuals, if filing grievances is not getting results we suggest that you thoroughly document violations of the policies contained in these manuals and make an application to the ACA to deny accreditation in cases where it has not yet been obtained, or where the facility is already accredited, to have the accreditation revoked. Although, this is unlikely as the accreditation appears to be paid for, it will created a paper trail which can later be used in court proceedings or at the next Senate Hearings.