HC Jail achieves accreditation
Until recently, the Marion County Jail in Indianapolis was the only correctional facility in Indiana to receive accreditation under strict guidelines set forth by the American Correctional Association.
That was before the Harrison County Jail was accredited Aug. 18 by the oldest and most prestigious correctional membership organization in the United States.
Last Wednesday morning, Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye and Harrison County Jail Commander Capt. Amanda Stone were flanked by almost the entire jail staff, county dignitaries and even a handful of inmates as the HCSD officially announced the accreditation, which took place at the ACA’s 144th Congress of Correction in Salt Lake City.
Founded in 1870, the ACA currently represents more than 20,000 correctional practitioners in the United States and Canada. The process of accreditation normally takes 12 to 18 months to complete, and an accreditation is granted for a period of three years. Maintaining continuous accreditation and integrating the standards into the day-to-day operations of the facility is now an everyday task.
During brief remarks, Seelye likened the jail to a ship that was listing and taking on water when he came into office in 2010, when there were numerous lawsuits from alleged abuse at the jail and other inter-departmental problems. He said when he took office there were 22 notifications of tort claims; in the last four years, there’s not been a single suit filed against the jail.
‘Getting accredited was a very laborious process; what they’ve been able to accomplish since we started is unbelievable,’ Seelye said. ‘We revisited all policies and procedures, rewrote them, brought in outside evaluators to inspect the jails and even went so far as to check the air ducts. We now operate with transparency and open the jail to evaluators and civilians alike. Anytime you shed some light on issues, that’s a good thing, and that’s what we try to do here.’
The sheriff said that in 46 mandatory categories the jail scored 100 percent, and, in non-mandatory categories, the jail scored 98.9 percent.
Seelye recalled the days of having an issue with public trust and believes those days are over.
‘I’m very, very proud of the accomplishments of the captain and the entire staff,’ he said. ‘They’ve done an amazing job, and they are the ones who need to be commended.’
During his remarks, Seelye said, due to the accreditation, insurance rates for the county would be lowered 10 to 15 percent starting in 2015.
Stone said since much of the accreditation deals with documentation, that it’s a matter of keeping everything updated for the duration of the three-year cycle to keep the accreditation.
‘It’s unbelievable to think about what we were able to do in just three years. I wasn’t here during the previous administration, but I know what I walked into when I was hired,’ she said. ‘I thought going into this there’s absolutely no way we can do this in the time period we were given. We thought we could get it done in two years; we had to tell the sheriff we weren’t quite ready. Then we went through a mock audit and decided we were ready. It’s unbelievable to look back at where we came from and where we are today. It is amazing.’
Gerald Price, first-shift sergeant, has worked at the jail since 2007 and has experienced the transformation.
‘We were able to put all the scrutiny behind us, the bad memories behind us and start fresh,’ he said. ‘There was a lot of enthusiasm from the sheriff and the jail commander and all of our supervising staff. We were given a clean slate to build.’
He recalled that he didn’t want to come to work prior to the changes taking place.
‘We’d get up in the morning and knew what we were coming into. Now we look forward to coming to work. The atmosphere is so much different … It’s actually rewarding now to put on this uniform.’
Inmate Bill Underwood, who has been incarcerated in multiple correctional facilities, has also experienced the change at the Harrison County Jail. Underwood, who is charged with burglary and drug charges, said past officers didn’t treat inmates like humans and wouldn’t ‘keep calm’ among the inmates.
‘When I came back here, I seen friends I’ve known all my life and they’ve given their life to Christ and I’ve seen something different with them. I’ve also given my life to Christ. The whole attitude of the staff towards us inmates is different,’ Underwood said. ‘Ministry here has produced a lot of changed lives through Christ. It’s orderly. Other jails have a lot of fights, a lot of problems. A problem arises every now and then here but nothing like at other places I’ve been.’
Underwood said it seemed as there were no guidelines or set plans, and no order to anything in the jail, which often led to inmates flooding toilets and sinks at the jail, fights and a rebellious spirit toward corrections officers.
‘They treat you with care and respect now,’ he said. ‘I’ve been promoted to being a trustee. All the staff that I deal with treat me with respect and give me trust I need to work in the jail. Inmates aren’t denied (recreation); they aren’t denied medical care. If you want rec, you can do rec. If you want ministry, you can do ministry.’
A flag commemorating the honor flies in front of the Justice Center, while the plaque the sheriff’s department received hangs in the lobby between the sheriff’s office and jail.