ACA Honors Massachusetts Jail

PITTSFIELD, Ma. — The American Correctional Association (ACA) has awarded its highest score to the Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections. The facility was awarded a score of 100 percent by the ACA report, according to Sheriff Thomas Bowler.

The report is the result of a professional peer-review process based on national standards that have evolved since the association was founded in 1870 and evaluate the level of operation of the facility, according to a joint announcement by commission Chairwoman Lannette Linthicum and ACA President Daron Hall.

As part of the audit conducted every three years, ACA officials spent several days at the jail and house of corrections in order to complete the audit and return necessary remarks.

Amidst a number of stories of unsafe and healthy jails across the U.S., for Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections there were nothing but positive reviews.

“Such positive results are a huge credit to the staff,” said Bowler. “They are contributing factors to those results and I couldn’t be more proud of every one of them.”

The facility currently employs 185 people and houses 312 inmates. Despite a relatively small budget of $14.1 million, the facility is running smoothly, according to the report.

“The bottom line was that we are a very professional organization,” Bowler said about the ACA review.

The audit looks at a number of issues at facilities, with security operation ranked among the highest issue.

The audit also explores the facility’s programming and tracks the improvement of reentry and education programs offered to inmates. The programs designed to reduce recidivism include work programs and training, education, rehabilitation and psychological services.

The 160,000-sqaure-foot Berkshire Jail and House of Correction was built in 1999 to replace the previous Second Street Jail that became overcrowded and could not meet the demands of the inmate populations. For years the Second Street Jail operated at double its designed capacity, according to the Berkshire Sheriff’s Department. The current jail has a maximum capacity of 500, if every cell was double-bunked.

The current jail has been able to achieve other high accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. In that report, the commission praised the facility for its suicide-prevention programs.

From the programs, to maintenance, to the facility’s operations, Berkshire has been able to meet or exceed the standards.

“There are 100 standards we have to meet,” said Bowler. “And we had full compliance, 100 out of 100.”

The audit will be conducted again in 2015 and the facility and will strive to continue its spotless 2012 record.

“When you hear that we’re doing everything right in this business, as the CEO of this agency, it’s a great feeling,” said Bowler.

The audit three years ago was given a score of 96.

This is Bowler’s first time being involved with an audit at the facility, who started working at the facility in January 2011.

“It really is an honor to receive such great remarks from the ACA during my first term as sheriff. I owe a lot of the results to my hard working staff,” said Bowler.

Upon the exit interview the three ACA auditors were able to provide details of how the overall experience was for them at the facility.

“They said that we were very professional and organized,” Bowler said. “They also said that the facility was one of the cleanest and professionally operated facilities they’ve ever been to.”

The three-day audit focused on several areas including facility operations, inmate discipline, health care, maintenance and transportation.