Evolving through accreditation.

Author:Bittick, John C.

As president of the National Sheriffs' Association from 2001 to 2002. I had the opportunity to discuss with many sheriffs across the nation concerns associated with the jails they operate Ever since the jail's inception in fourth-century England, the accountability for the operation of the jail has fallen primarily on the elected sheriff. Since the first jail opened in America in 1626, the how, why, ways and means of incarcerating offenders has continually evolved. No longer are jails one-celled brick rooms with iron bars keeping a lone inmate imprisoned. For some offenders, locally operated jails are the precursors to our nation's prisons. Generally, however, jails hold those inmates who are pretrial or who are sentenced to a year or ess of incarceration.


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, local jails currently house 32 percent of the nation's incarcerated offenders. Large county jails, like those operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, house a good portion of those inmates confined to jails, while other county facilities house very small percentages of the nation's offenders. Regardless, each jail has the same responsibilities and faces the same issues. No longer can jails be run purely by just looking at low-cost external providers. Numerous laws and court decisions have determined that a jail's vicarious liability to the community does not pass away merely by contracting jail administration or management.

Current topics influencing jail management include: dealing with special populations such as the mentally ill, making defendants available for court, maintaining healthy and sanitary conditions free from infectious disease, protecting offenders from predatory conduct, ensuring compliance with legislation and court mandates, ensuring quality medical services and above all, being accountable.

One method of accountability is participating in the accreditation process. We want the public to have confidence that we are doing our...

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