Detention Center gets high scores from private accrediting service

November 14, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

The Harford County Detention Center is run efficiently and has no major problems, according to a report by a jail accrediting service that was paid $7,200 by the sheriff's office to conduct the study.

This assessment comes at a time when County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann is trying to gain control of the facility from the sheriff's office, which she contends has done a poor job of administering the jail and supervising its inmates.

The American Correctional Association, a private consulting organization based in Laurel, audits about 200 of the 3,500 correctional facilities in the United States every three years.

It accredited the Harford County Detention Center in 1990 and completed a three-year reaccreditation review on Nov. 5.

By national correctional facility standards, the county jail is nearly perfect, Harford County Sheriff Robert E. Comes said Tuesday.

The Detention Center scored 100 percent for compliance with 32 mandatory standards set by the consulting firm. It scored 96.6 percent for compliance with 377 non-mandatory standards, said Sheriff Comes.

The range of standards covers items such as inmate safety, food service, security and inmate control and inmate rights.

It is not sufficient, for example, to merely say inspections of dormitory facilities are made daily. There must be written documentation -- date, time, remarks and signature of the staff member conducting the inspection -- to show that the inspections were done, said Deputy Sgt. Larry Delbridge.

Sergeant Delbridge has been involved with the accrediting process since it began in 1986. He serves under the sheriff as coordinator of accreditation over law enforcement and the Detention Center.

The consultants' completed reaccreditation report will not be released by the American Correctional Association until January, the sheriff said.

There may be a caveat to the favorable report, however. The consulting firm is funded by the correctional facilities, creating a relationship which might cloud its objectivity.

Another factor casting a shadow is the method the rating company uses when inspecting a facility. Inspections are announced, which could give jail staffs time to correct some problems before the accreditation team arrives.

"You may be able to clean up, but you can't cover up not having the paperwork on file to document day-to-day work to meet the required standards," Sergeant Delbridge said.

In addition to Harford, Prince George's and Montgomery are the only other state counties whose correctional facilities are accredited by the American Correctional Association.

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