By Melissa Bower, Fort Leavenworth LampMarch 15, 2012
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 15, 2012) -- An evaluator visiting Fort Leavenworth's two correctional facilities said she's only given a 100 percent score to seven prison facilities in 26 years -- and never two in a row.
Evaluators from the American Corrections Association, a nonprofit organization outside the Department of Defense that accredits prison facilities throughout the world, spent about a week on post March 5-9 evaluating both the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and the Joint Regional Correctional Facility. The three evaluators visited the prison facilities to check on more than 500 different standards -- 61 of which are mandatory. They looked at health standards, safety, staff training and hundreds of other requirements. The evaluators spoke directly to the inmates, asking them questions about how they are treated and view their services.
Both the USDB and JRCF achieved 100 percent of the standards.
The ACA chairperson will prepare documentation of the evaluation, and paperwork will be presented to an ACA accreditation board later this year to determine whether both facilities will achieve full accreditation.
"The hospitality has been outstanding," an ACA evaluator told JRCF staff during an outbriefing. "If this is what military installations are like … you should be a model for others."
The USDB achieved its 100 percent status despite having an entire company deployed to Iraq. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion, served nearly a year at detention facilities in Iraq, training Iraqi staff to takeover the facilities.
Back home in the U.S., all Soldiers within the 15th Military Police Brigade had to compensate for having about 150 Soldiers deployed to Iraq, said Col. Eric Belcher, brigade commander. He said the junior Soldiers were challenged to work at levels they would not normally work, and leaders worked with extremely limited manpower. The USDB also had the added challenge of meeting the ACA's re-accreditation process, which means evaluators sorted through documentation over the last three years at the USDB.
"To say we were stretched thin is an understatement," Belcher said. "But everyone stepped up and completed the mission without fail. I am extremely proud of all the Soldiers and civilians who have worked so hard to make this brigade what it is today, and the successful audit from the American Correctional Association validates all the hard work our folks accomplish in the facilities every day."
Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, commander of the 705th MP I/R Battalion, which staffs the JRCF, said she was also proud of her Soldiers and civilian staff's achievement. The JRCF had to grow with the inmate population, she said, and also has many young and less experienced Soldiers.
"We knew this day was coming," Hilton said of the ACA visit. "They started with the mentality that we were going to get 100 percent, from the Soldiers all the way up to the officers. They just wanted to prove to everyone we are the best."
Evaluators commented about the professionalism not only of the staff, but of the inmates they interviewed. Evaluators told staff at the JRCF they were impressed with the medical facilities, cleanliness of the dining facilities and the attitudes of inmates at both facilities.
ACA accreditation visits are done every three years. Army facilities also have to meet its internal evaluations, done yearly. Peter Grande, chief of staff at the USDB, said because the Army corrections system has been involved with prison standards created by the organization now called ACA for such a long time -- since the 1800s -- many of the ACA standards have been written into standard Army detention procedures.
Grande said this is the first time the USDB has achieved 100 percent of the standards. The USDB received a score of 99.8 percent in 2009 and 99.6 percent in 2006. It is also the first time the JRCF had ever been evaluated since it was built in 2010, and the first time any Army detention facility had achieved 100 percent of the standards on its first ACA accreditation visit.
Dave Haasenritter, assistant deputy of Army Corrections oversight within the Army Review Boards, manages the ACA program for the Army. He said that the ACA accreditation process was more than a visit every three years.
"People think this is a rubber stamp and it's not," he said.
Haasenritter said that as a corrections evaluator himself, he has failed facilities. The internal Army evaluation checks all of the ACA's 61 mandatory standards every year. The first year, they also check half of the non-mandatory ACA standards. The second year, they look at the remaining non-mandatory ACA standards.
Haasenritter said some of the Department of Defense's Navy detention facilities, at Miramar Calif., and Charleston, S.C., also meet ACA standards. Marine Corps detention facilities do not participate in the ACA process, Haasenritter said, but are considering doing so.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Simmons, JRCF sergeant major, and Tim Callahan, civilian deputy to the commander of the JRCF, have both worked in Army corrections for decades and have never worked in a facility that received 100 percent of ACA standards. Callahan said as well as the excellent staff and well-planned standard operating procedures, the construction of the facility also has to do with the 100 percent rating.
"This is a testimony to the Soldiers and civilians that are part of this organization," Callahan said.