Monday, January 5, 2009

How Private Correctional Companies Use Phony Industry Group Audits to Mislead Government Officials: the ACA Audit of Marion County Jail #2

It is always important to read between the lines. This is especially true when you are talking about private correctional companies and the audits that are done for the purpose of proving that they are doing a great job. Corrections Corporation of America, who runs Marion County Jail #2 is the largest private correctional company in the country. CCA uses the American Correctional Association (ACA) to do audits of their facilities nation-wide and issue accreditations. ACA, in fact, brags about how their audits can be used to paint a rosy picture of facilities with elected officials and as a tool against litigation.

But does ACA really produce fair and objective audits? Well, first, you have to consider that ACA is a pro-private corrections trade group. ACA exists for the purpose of showing to the public that private corrections works well. The group has a huge incentive to show that private jails and prisons are well run. For ACA to show otherwise in their audits is to cut their own throat.

Second, CCA pays ACA hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform audits on their facilities nationwide. Is ACA really going to come back with negative reports on ACA facilities when they might lose CCA’s business?

Finally, it should be noted that ACA audits are primarily a procedure and not an operational audit. ACA auditors are checking to see if certain procedures are in place, not whether those procedures are actually followed. When CCA and other private correctional companies promote the fact they have ACA certification, they leave out the very critical fact that an ACA audit is a procedures audit, not an operations audit.

How do these audits work in practice? Well, in 2005 ACA did an audit of Marion County Jail #2. In ACA’s report it indicates that 100 inmates were einterviewed and "virtually all xpressed satisfaction with the way they were treated.” The eport also says that the inmates "felt their access to medical care was all right, and they know how to access the grievance procedure and understood the disciplinary process. "

I am constantly being contacted by inmates or their families about problems at Jail #2, usually a lack of medical care. I have yet to run across the first inmate who has been interviewed during an ACA audit. The problems with inmates getting medical care and their medication a constant complaint of inmates, one that has been confirmed repeatedly by CCA’s own medical staff and is reflected in the large number of injuries and deaths at Jail #2. As far as grievances, I do not know of a single inmate at CCA/Jail #2 who has ever been allowed to complete the grievance process. That’s no accident. When inmates are not allowed to complete the grievance process, CCA’s attorneys can go to court and ask that any litigation filed against the private jail company be dismissed.

In the 2005 audit, ACA claimed to interview 70 staff members. According to CCA’s report, almost all were “eager to share the very positive things they have and are accomplished in corrections. Virtually all the staff was happy and enthusiastic about their jobs.” I have interviewed scores of employees of CCA/Jail #2 who tell a far, far different story. Not a single one of those employees were ever interviewed by ACA, even though most were at the facility during the time of the 2005 audit and were eager to talk to auditors to point out the problems at the facility. In the 2008 audit, ACA claims to talk to 111 “personnel” of Jail #2. Former CCA employees tell me they doubt the 111 people even work at the facility. Still I’m waiting to find that first non-managerial employee who was actually interviewed by ACA.

During the 2005 ACA audit, in which CCA/Jail #2 was rewarded with a 98% rating, it was noted that there had been no litigation against the facility for 3 years (a claim I find doubtful). By the 2008 audit though, it was noted that thirteen lawsuits had been filed in the previous three years. In those years, several inmates died at the facility, including, allegedly, for highly treatable situations, such as in an inmate not being treated for pneumonia, and inmates not being given their heart and blood pressure medication. So how did ACA judge Marion County Jail #2 in light of these lawsuits and deaths? Marion County Jail #2 went from 98% in 2005 to 99% in 2008.

Obviously Marion County Jail #2 is a well-run facility, right? Well, no. In an operations audit in 2005, the same year Jail #2 scored a 98% on the ACA audit, scores of problems at Marion County Jail #2 were noted. As noted in the documents posted below, 21 areas reviewed were found to be “Nonperforming” and 18 areas were labeled as “Needs Improvement.” It was noted that inmates requesting sick call were “Not seen in a timely manner” and that inmates who miss medication for three doses were not referred to a physician.” Mental health assessments were “Not being completed.” Inmates were not being screened for TB at intake. It was noted that there is “rarely a plan for treatment or followup” when health problems are noted during health appraisals. This last item in particular is a problem that has led to injuries and deaths at the facility.

Despite several deaths at the facility and other medical and safety problems, Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson, who contracts with CCA to run Jail #2, did not even bother to do an audit of the facility for at least the past three years. In 2007, again without even so much as doing an audit, he renewed CCA's contract for another 10 years.

When government officials privatize a service, they have to duty to diligently make sure that the contractor is living up to their contract and following law. Relying on an industry group like ACA for reassurance that the contractor is living up to the contract and following the law is a foolish approach to privatization.


To enlarge, click on images.


Citizen Kane said...

The money can't flow to the right people if truth be told about most if not all instances of privatization. Privatization is just another way to enrich friends and punish enemies.

varangianguard said...

Sounds a little like some other "private" initiative that I'm critical of.....

Leslie Sourwine said...

A little info for those reading your blog.

In Indiana, shortly after becoming governor, Mitch Daniels looked for
ways to turn government services over to the private sector. Within
months, food and nursing services in state prisons were handed over to
the private companies, and the state contracted for the first private
prison in the state. Located at this website:
This organization, ALEC boasts of getting laws on the books in every state including the get tough on crime laws that has America’s prisons overflowing with estimates that without in the next few years will climb to the 5 million range.
Visit this website to see the ALEC rap sheet.
A point of interest we should note is that Corrections Corporation was one of the leading contributors to this organization and sat on its board. I’ve see comments by CCA spokespersons that CCA doesn’t lobby for tougher sentencing when in fact they are right in the middle of it.
CCA isn’t alone in its lobbying efforts here’s a comment made by GEO formerly Wackenhut.
"This is the time of year when the various legislatures are in session. We invest significant time introducing privatization legislation and testifying for its adoption. This can be a lengthy, involved process, but it is vital to our business to have empowering statutes adopted. Once the statutes are implemented, a request for proposal usually follows. This legislative process also affords us an opportunity to work closely with elected officials and thereby understand what is important to them."
Charles R. Jones, Senior VP, Wackenhut, 1996 Annual Report as reported in Prison Privatization Report International, No. 11 June 1997
Taxpayers in Indiana and Marion County better get their heads out of the sand and start demanding answers. While taxpayers struggle to meet the rising costs of everything from food, clothing, medical and housing your purchased politicians are pocketing your money and allowing big corporations to take over your city and state.

Leslie Sourwine said...

One of the first complaints we received at The Police Complaint Center against CCA was from the DUI case we mentioned before. This guy was pretty sick and his family called us to see if we could do something to help. I called the jail and did manage to get him seen by the doctor who isn’t a doctor. He prescribed medication for our client and we thought all was well. Three days later his family contacted us again and informed us that yes he did receive medication but after the first day employees at the jail quit giving it to him. So we had to make another call to the jail. This guy was charged a total of 45 dollars for his medical visit. 15 to see the non-doctor, 15 for the escort, and 15 for the meds that they only gave him one day and probably wouldn’t have given him anymore had it not been for a call made to them complaining. If you check their contract with the city I am sure it says they can only charge what is being charged at Jail I.

For the past year it’s been an uphill battle to get these people to take care of the inmate medical needs. I can’t remember how many phone calls I’ve made to the head office and to their medical hot line. When the Star published that article detailing your lawsuit someone from the main office in Tennessee made a statement that they hadn’t received any complaints about Jail II in December 07. That is a flat out untruth because we called the head office in December to complain about the lack of heat in one of the housing units in Jail II which by the way housed our client with the DUI charge. Employees at Jail II told the inmates that they would have to wait until after Christmas to get the heat fixed. I found out during the summer when supposedly the air conditioner was broken that the heating and the cooling is computer controlled. What that means is you can shut the heat off in the hallway and leave it on in the cell blocks or in the case of the complaint our organization made to the main CCA office it was the cell blocks that didn’t have heat and then later didn’t have cooling.

Speaking of talking to inmates, the Star did a story on Jail II. Jail officials allowed Star reporters inside the jail with cameras but they were forbidden to talk to the inmates. I find that kind of odd considering the complaints against the jail at that time. One would think that with all the denying jail and corporate employees were doing in response to the complaints lodged against the jail that they would have welcomed the reporters talking to the inmates. Nope, mum was the word.

Another thing, according to the contract with the city CCA has to provide special meals to inmates with health and religious issues. According to a response I received from my FIOA request I was told CCA isn't aware of any policy where inmates are entitled to opt for a "food preference" So my question is how many times does it take for CCA to violate it’s signed contract to get the Mayor and council members to revoke the contract and run the real criminals out of town?