COLUMBIANA, AL – On October 2, 2017, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) became the first jail in Alabama to undergo and successfully meet Accreditation requirements through the National Institute for Jail Operations (NIJO).
The NIJO accreditation process requires agencies pursing accreditation to provide policies and documented proofs of compliance to ascertain their policies meet requirements of the law and that they are being practiced and followed. There were 588 applicable legal based guidelines, specific to correctional case law governing the state of Alabama, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Supreme Court rulings and federal acts and regulations applicable to Shelby County Jail. After extensive review of policies and a thorough onsite verification inspection was conducted, the jail received a Level I Accreditation, the highest achievable rating.
Sheriff John Samaniego expressed, “I commend the command staff and supervisors who participated in this undertaking. I am very proud of all the men and women who make our Jail the best in the State of Alabama. The dedication and hard work by not only the command staff and supervisors but all the men and women who showed immense pride in their respective jobs achieving the top rating
in this accreditation.”
Keeping policies and procedures up to date with current case law is challenging and demands an administration to consistently maintain a high, professional level of operations. SCSO support and commitment to operating the facility within compliance requirements of the legal based guidelines has enhanced jail operations, increased professionalism and proactively served to protect against liability and other risk management issues.
Captain Jay Fondren, Corrections Division Commander was present during the onsite inspection. He confirmed, “The NIJO accreditation process was demanding, but well worth the time and effort invested. Throughout the accreditation process, our employees gained a new appreciation of our policies and procedures through their detailed analysis. The end result is that our jail is now grounded on policies backed by legal based standards.”
Historical statistics show counties that actively participate with the NIJO Legal-Based Jail Guidelines accompanied with the inspection or accreditation program account for 28% – 33% of jail liability losses, compared to the national average of 71%, a significant decrease and savings for those participating counties.
Tate McCotter, NIJO Executive Director was present to observe the onsite verification inspection. He explained “There are few professions which are as volatile and subject to change as corrections. In order to be compliant with the law and run a constitutionally safe facility, jail administrators must be proactive and stay ahead of the curve, constantly updating policies and procedures, looking for ways that safety and security might be compromised. That is exactly what the accreditation process accomplishes. SCSO did a remarkable job by proactively discovering and addressing potential liability and risk management issues.”
McCotter commented “When done with transparency and based on legal-based principles, accreditation benefits the jail staff, the inmates and the entire public. For most counties, the jail is the largest liability in county government and the process itself becomes a significant risk management and liability defense.”
In order to maintain accreditation status, the jail must provide annual proofs of compliance and policy revisions for two additional years. The cycle is repeated every three years to maintain consistency and verify compliance.