The inspection model widely accepted and followed in corrections is patterned after an “outside-in” approach, meaning the agency is first inspected by an outside organization, which identifies, according to their own checklists, specific criteria for evaluation of compliancy. The results are documented by the inspecting organization and the agency is expected to resolve or follow up on those items that are identified as non-compliant. The entire process – though well-intentioned – is usually misunderstood and ineffective at the overall purpose of such an inspection, which is to provide a second set of eyes to the agency for verification of compliance. Often the results are tainted the day of the inspection due to inaccurate evaluations of the facility, the staff, or of the procedure because the administration has “crammed” for the inspection rather than displaying a realistic snapshot of the normal operations of the jail. Perfectionism, subjectivity, and the pride of administrative staff influence the outcome of an inspection and can derail the effectiveness of the inspection goals.
It is important to consider these factors when establishing a successful inspection program. An “inside-out” approach can eliminate such outcomes because it is founded on the premise the agency has already ascertained its primary strengths and weaknesses prior to arrival by conducting its own self audit or self assessment. Common verification inspections offered by NIJO include the following:
- Operational Assessments and Inspections
- Staffing Analysis
- Construction/ Remodel
- Security and Control/ Vulnerability
- Liability Risk Assessments
- Policy Review
- Intake – Booking
- Medical / Mental Health
- Food Services
- Administration and Training
- Inmate Programs
- Inmate Management
- Life-Safety Issues
If you are interested in receiving a verification inspection or would like assistance in implementing your own verification inspection program for your agency or state, NIJO has numerous resources and information available. If you are interested in procuring a verification inspection or would like assistance in implementing your own verification inspection program for your agency or state, NIJO has numerous resources and information available. Contact NIJO to find out more or to receive a proposal for the above services.
As Executive Director for the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, I searched far and wide to find an affordable way to conduct our jail inspections statewide. We knew an internet based system was the way to go, but we could never find anything out there that was affordable and capable of providing the components of the system necessary to make it highly effective and user friendly. Because of limited funding, we were skimping on our inspections, risking liability and the only solutions out there were priced 15 times more than our entire allocated budget – and they still could not accomplish the essential functions and objectives we required. Most were priced well into six figures for implementation.
After discovering and contracting for the AARMS system, we were up and running in 3 weeks statewide. We have been pleased that the AARMS system has exceeded our demands in managing our jail inspections in 26 facilities since 2007. Inspecting 600 plus standards over a large geographic area is challenging, but AARMS has shortened the preparation time by over 70% for the jails and improve the effectiveness of the audits. It has also saved our association and jails an average of $41,470 a year in unnecessary inspector travel and labor costs compared to available alternatives. What used to take three full days onsite is now only a half day in many places, despite having substantially increased the scope and intensity of inspections. Much of the savings is because the bulk of the work was verified online by the inspectors. Using our legal-based standards, I credit the AARMS system as a primary reason why we have the lowest losses in prisoner filed lawsuits in the entire country. For us, the inspections are all about liability and mitigating losses. In 2013 according to the risk management pool, county jails paid out a grand total of $51,400 statewide – almost entirely defense costs. The AARMS dashboards and reports allow me and my staff to see weaknesses, compare repeat issues from year to year and follow up on corrective action quickly.
Director of Jail Operations
Utah Sheriffs’ Association