Four Facilities Advance toward ACA Accreditation

Columbus, Forsyth, Orange and Carteret correctional facilities earn exemplary audit scores.

Author: Brad Deen

Four Adult Correction facilities recently took giant steps to earning “gold standard” status.

Today, Columbus Correctional Institution joined Forsyth, Orange and Carteret as the latest Department of Adult Correction facilities that not only passed their national accreditation audits, but aced them with near-perfect scores.

The final step to full accreditation of those facilities will be a vote by an American Correctional Association panel in August. Ten DAC facilities are currently ACA-accredited.

Secretary Todd Ishee has made ACA accreditation of all facilities and operations a priority since he came to North Carolina’s prison system in 2019. 

“Everyone who contributed to successful audits should feel proud, and rightly so,” Ishee said. “Accreditation reflects everything that’s good about an organization: hard work, dedication, teamwork toward a common mission, combined with the individual initiative to realize when something falls short and has to be corrected for the sake of the common mission.

“More importantly, ACA accreditation, as I’ve said many times before, is the gold standard for correctional operations,” he added. “Those facilities are among the elite. They’re operating a correctional facility and looking after staff and offenders the way that America’s leading correctional organization says it should be done.

“I’m proud of our facilities and their leadership that have demonstrated the professional expertise to meet such high expectations. I want all of our correctional operations, all our wardens and directors and staff, to want to shine that brightly as well. I truly believe we have the best state correctional system in the nation. Full accreditation would make that hard to argue.”

For anyone not familiar with ACA accreditation auditing, the process is both intensive and exhaustive. It can also be enlightening, as it reveals fine details of an operation that might otherwise have gone overlooked or simply accepted.

Facility staffs at all levels of operations spend months working with Division audit preparation staff, who are familiar with ACA best practices in everything from safety and security to records and data management. The point is to ensure peak operational performance of the facility.

All that preparation leads up to the ACA auditors’ three-day visit. The auditors are typically longtime or retired wardens, correctional system administrators and medical personnel. They initially comb through records, looking for evidence of accuracy and accountability. They make sure policies and procedures are in place to keep the facility operating smoothly, securely and safely. Then they inspect all areas of prison operations for assurance that the way things are actually done follows what’s on paper.

ACA accreditation audits produce a double score: for mandatory standards, which require 100 percent compliance, and non-mandatory standards, which require 90 percent. The four facilities audited over the past two weeks earned scores of:

  • Orange: 100 percent mandatory, 99.29 non-mandatory
  • Forsyth: 100, 99.49
  • Carteret: 100 and 100
  • Columbus: 100, 99.3

The next cycle of accreditation audits will take place next summer at:

  • Caldwell Correctional Center
  • Craggy Correctional Center
  • Craven Correctional Institution
  • Davidson Correctional Center
  • Nash Correctional Institution
  • additional Central Office operations (possibly). 

Facilities and operations that have already earned accreditation are:

  • Division of Prisons Central Office
  • Warren Janitorial Products Plant
  • Sanford Correctional Center
  • Moore County Sign Reclaiming Plant
  • Correction Enterprises Central Office
  • Tyrell Prison Work Farm
  • Western Correctional Center for Women
  • Catawba Correctional Center
  • Lincoln Correctional Center
  • Wilkes Correctional Center 

ACA accreditation is good for three years, although facilities have to report and provide verifying documents annually. The first facilities that have already earned the status will begin preparations next fall and winter to earn reaccreditation.

Late 2023 is also the timeframe for accreditation audits at:

  • Dan River Prison Work Farm
  • Greene Correctional Institution
  • Hyde Correctional Institution
  • Lumberton Correctional Institution
  • Rutherford Correctional Center
  • Sampson Correctional Institution
  • and possible others.

Up for 2024 audits are, so far:

  • Albemarle Correctional Institution
  • Gaston Correctional Center
  • Southern Correctional Institution
  • and more to be announced.

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