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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 most comprehensive collection of legal-based policies are available for sheriffs and jail administrators.  Over 400 policies and procedures are based on laws and statutes applicable to the jail.   Every policy further contains rationale and annotation as applicable to support the policy and procedure.  The NIJO Legal-Based Policies and Procedures coincide with the NIJO Legal-Based Guidelines, auditing and risk management tools and legal-based training offered through the National Institute for Jail Operations.


The primary objectives of providing legal-based policies and procedures through the partnership are to:

  • assist sheriffs and jail administrators to proactively defend against prisoner-filed litigation;
  • promote the overall awareness of legal-based resources;
  • make policies and procedure affordable for agencies of all sizes (pricing as low as $175 per policy!); and
  • ensure policies and procedure coincide with other NIJO promoted legal-based jail resources.

NIJO Policies and Procedures are written to provide guidance to jail officials.  As an aid to officials, most of the chapters are annotated with case law and/or statute citations; however, neither the citations nor the written policies should be construed as legal advice.  Legal requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another so each chapter should be reviewed with the agency’s legal advisors before adoption and implementation.   Effective policy and procedures are absolutely essential for the management of all jail operations. Given the importance of a jail’s operational policy and procedure, consider the following:

  • Is your policy based on current case law or past administrative mandates/training?  Many jails rely on old policy and procedure based on outdated standards not based on case law to their specific state statutes and Circuit Court rulings, and in many instances, the decisions made by the Supreme Court and federal law.
  • Do you have staff with the skills, time and means to research current case law? Does case law change?   Take, for example, what has happened with strip searches over the last 3 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.
  • Do you have a process that allows for your policy and procedure to be reviewed and changed according to current case law?  Without such processes in place, many jails keep status quo until something misconduct, dysfunction or non-compliance results in harm to an agency, administration or other embarrassing media coverage, often resulting in litigation and liability defense. Updated legal-based policy coupled with training to the policy and procedure is the best defense a jail administration can have in 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.