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Learn more about how our Policy and Procedures resources can help your correctional facility maintain the highest standards of operation. Our comprehensive guidelines and expert advice are tailored to assist in developing, implementing, and managing effective policies and procedures, ensuring legal compliance and operational excellence in the corrections field.

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Advanced Solutions for Policy and Procedures

With the expansion of the NIJO Legal-Based Jail Guidelines, sheriffs and jail administrators across the country have openly expressed the need for legal-based policy and procedures. Many agencies lack the staff, budget, resources, and time to be able to fully develop them. The National Institute for Jail Operations offers the only comprehensive collection of legal-based policies are available for sheriffs and jail administrators.  Over 400 policies and procedures are based on laws and state statutes specifically written for correctional facilities.  Every policy further contains rationale and annotation as applicable to support the policy and procedure.  The NIJO Legal-Based Policies and Procedures that align with the NIJO’s Legal-Based Guidelines® along with auditing and risk management tools and legal-based training.


In many cases, when agencies need outside assistance, they still end up doing the bulk of the work because contracted agencies generally provide model policy, which still requires the agency to come up with procedure and modify the recommended policies.  Even when contracted, policy writers often lack the correctional expertise to effectively write procedures.  It is also largely ignored because procedure is the most difficult part of the policy writing process.  NIJO includes procedures with every policy manual. 

NIJO promulgates only legal-based solutions to policy and procedure.  Good faith immunity with inmate filed lawsuits depends upon knowing and complying with clearly established law (Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982).  Many agencies lose lawsuits because they assume their policies and procedures are based on current case law when often they are hybrids borrowed from neighboring jails that were created without adherence to the agency’s specific state statutes or circuit court.  Others rely on “best practices”, state “minimum” standards (which may not be inclusive to all legal requirements) or national standards, which are costly and provide only false security as the Supreme Court has noted repeatedly.   

“[R]eliance on . . . correctional standards issued by various groups is misplaced . . . And while the recommendations of these various groups may be instructive in certain cases, they simply do not establish the constitutional minima; rather, they establish goals recommended by the organization in question.”  

— Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 543 n.27 (1979).

Many policies are created without any basis for staff to understand why the policy exists.  For staff to effectively operate within most policies, a clear understanding of WHY is critical in daily decision making.  The unique and individual circumstances that occur in correctional facilities daily necessitates officers know more than just the WHAT which is generally only found in a policy statement.  NIJO includes rationale with each policy so staff is able to understand what is expected and why.  It also provides a strong basis and reference for officers to be able to effectively answer inmate grievances and make confident split second decisions on more difficult circumstances. 

Many jails rely on old policy and procedure which is based on outdated standards which are not based on case law specific to their state.  It is important for agencies to have policy and procedure that is in accordance with federal laws and their specific statutes and circuit court rulings.

Take, for example, what has happened with strip searches in recent years in the 9th Circuit. Two months after a dramatic ruling, the court revised the decision. How did those changes affect a jails policy and procedure? It takes the average person 10 hours per week in the law library to stay updated and current with correctional law. The majority of jails report this is not remotely possible. Yet it is a necessity to assist in mitigating and protecting against supervisor liability and reduce risk management exposure.

Without such processes in place, many agencies may only address outdated policy and procedure deficiencies reactively, often in response to incidents, adverse media coverage, or legal action. Updated legal-based policy coupled with training is the best defense jail administrators can have for a successful defense.

Many administrators have questioned why a national set of policy isn’t developed. The National Institute for Jail Operations recognizes “National Policy” would not be upheld in court because such policy could not be based on the laws specific to every county jail. A jail in the 11th Circuit, for example, must adhere to the 11th Circuit rulings and their own state statutes while a jail in the 6th Circuit is responsible to administering the law according to their own state and Circuit Court law, which may not necessarily agree with other circuit court rulings. If you are interested in creating legal based policy for your agency, jail or state sheriffs’ association, contact NIJO staff with more details and information. Policy has been created for a number of requesting agencies and states at rates as low as $175 per policy! To find out more about NIJO Policy and Procedures development and resources available to jails and detention facilities, please contact NIJO.




Each correctional facility is built with differing physical layouts, populations, programming, staffing, and available resources which all pose unique challenges. NIJO tailors policy and procedure to each jail’s specific needs and circumstances.

Some jails may have a policy writer with solid writing skills but lacks the legal knowledge or expertise in a specific area. Other jails may lack a staff member who has the expertise and time required to create and maintain policies and procedures. Some may have a well-developed existing policy and procedure manual which only requires minor modifications in a specific area. Another facility may have no policy whatsoever and is starting from scratch. Whether the jail’s policy manual is completely outdated or just needs adjustments in certain areas as case law changes, NIJO offers customized options for agencies based on those needs and resources.

Collaboration between policy writers and correctional experts is key to bridging the gap between policy development and effective implementation. Agencies that use NIJO Legal-Based Policies and Procedures see marked improvement in every facet of their jail’s operations.

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