Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 2, 2013

It’s money well-spent

Costs for American Correctional Association (ACA) accreditation, approximately $12,000 spread over a three-year period, are an investment Maryland is sure to gain from.

They provide for third-party, nationally known expert auditors from across the country to come and audit our prisons. We know this because ACA accreditation is already here in Maryland at two of our largest institutions — Western Correctional Institution and Eastern Correctional Institution.

Moreover, the State would pay these fees for only 21 additional institutions, not the 32 mentioned in a Feb. 22 letter to the editor (“Passage of this bill could cost considerable amount of money”).

 When I arrived in Maryland to head the state’s correctional system in 2007, it was widely known as the one of the most violent prison systems in the U.S.

With support from the O’Malley-Brown Administration, creating safer prisons for our correctional officers became a top priority. The same goes for the offenders under our care. This began in 2007 with the closing of the Maryland House of Correction, one of, if not the most, violent prisons in the country.

Since then, thanks to a relentless focus on developing gang intelligence, sharing information with local law enforcement, capturing more contraband, interdicting illegal cell phones, and a $1.1 million investment in to security entrance technology, we’ve driven down serious assaults on staff by 65 percent throughout our state-run correctional facilities.

Serious inmate-on-inmate violence is also down by 47 percent over the same time.

All of this has been made possible through the hard work of our correctional officers and employees working together to meet our mission — to keep the public, our employees and offenders under our care safe.

 With this groundwork in place, we will utilize ACA accreditation to build upon our success and take us to the next level.

This will help us create a standardization of policies, procedures and training — based on national best correctional practices — which will propel us to becoming one of the best correctional systems in the country.

Savings would be realized by taxpayers through more efficiently run prison. Reduced liability, better employee retention, fewer workmen’s compensation claims, a more efficient inmate grievance process, and less state audits are all benefits of ACA accreditation.

 The benefits of ACA accreditation at the Western and Eastern Correctional Institutions can be seen when comparing these facilities with others in Maryland of similar security levels during FY12:

• $566 in workers compensation incurred per employee in accredited facilities, versus $1,001 per employee in non-accredited facilities;

• Less staff attrition when compared to non-accredited facilities in their geographic region of the state, a probable indication of better morale;

• Fewer instances of staff discipline in accredited institutions than those that are not accredited;

• The inmate MRSA (a bacterium responsible for many difficult-to-treat infections) rate in our accredited facilities is 1 percent versus 2 percent at non-accredited facilities;

• 100 percent per capita of inmates in accredited facilities trust and use the inmate grievance process, versus 59 percent in non-accredited facilities;

 The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is building a system of true excellence and ACA accreditation will get us there.

This will challenge us to stay on the cutting edge of correctional practices and holds us accountable for efficiency in our operations — something every taxpayer can appreciate in a government agency.

 Gary D. Maynard, secretary

Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services

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