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Maine State Prison earns kudos


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The Founder
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Maine State Prison earns kudos

Maine State Prison earns kudos

Maine State Prison Warden Jeffrey Merrill is pleased with recent notification that the Maine State Prison and the Bolduc Correctional Facility, both in Warren and under his leadership, have been recommended by auditors for accreditation by the American Correctional Association.

The Maine State Prison, the state's largest penal institution, was inspected for compliance with 493 standards, including 44 that were mandatory life and health safety standards. Both facilities scored 100 percent on the mandatory standards and the Maine State Prison scored 98.3 percent on the remaining standards, with Bolduc scoring 98 percent.

Merrill is crediting his staff -- and some inmates -- for taking steps to make living conditions better for the prison community.

In addition to the Maine State Prison and Bolduc, the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston and the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland have also been recommended for accreditation and the Maine Correctional Center in Windham was awarded its certificate of accreditation two weeks ago.

"It's a milestone in corrections," said Merrill of the certification. "If you get accredited, it means you're meeting 500 of the nationally recognized standards, and for a facility like Bolduc, there are over 300 recommended standards or best practices that you're meeting and it's truly soup to nuts."

"Soup to nuts" translates to everything from the physical plant, staff knowledge, and procedures and key control to inmates' daily activities including what items they are allowed to possess. The audit also reviews a facility's procedures for weapons control and tool control, and evaluates all of the cleaning chemicals on hand and how and where they are secured and how the inventories are maintained.

"They check every closet, every shelf, and every office and corridor and they ask the staff a lot of questions to ensure they know what they're doing and what's expected of them," Merrill said. "At Bolduc, they even went out on the job sites with the inmates and they came back with high praise for the way it operates."

The Maine Department of Corrections last year requested an audit of the Maine State Prison and Bolduc based on a desire to achieve accreditation.

The most common reason a correctional agency seeks accreditation is to ensure that the operation is in compliance with national standards and to show that it is operating at acceptable professional levels. By undergoing the accreditation process, officials and managers learn their facility's strengths and weaknesses, identify goals for improvement, implement state-of-the-art policies and procedures, and establish specific guidelines for daily operations.

And while it's good for officials to know they are adhering to national standards, the outcome can also be an aid in the defense of frivolous lawsuits, increase community support, and improve staff professionalism and morale.

Merrill's two facilities passed muster and then some.

Merrill said the auditors, including three who had experience working in correctional facilities in New York and Angola, La., were familiar with typical hiding places and knew what the corrections staff faces on a regular basis. That, Merrill said, made the audit that much more thorough and valid.

And staff and management didn't do anything different on the days that the auditors were in the house.

"In addition to reviewing all of our files, they ate the same food we were eating and that day it happened to be bologna," Merrill said. "We didn't change the menu because they were coming; we had nothing to hide and we wanted them to come in and tell how we were doing, no matter what it meant."

Another benefit of the audit was that it inspired the staff at the prison to clean house. Formerly housed in a dilapidated facility in Thomaston, the prison had a lot of junk that was brought along in the move to Warren..

"We're pack rats just like everyone else and doing the audit made us realize we had a lot of stuff inside the facility that hadn't been inventoried yet," Merrill said.

For instance, there was an abundance of mops on hand -- more than 25 -- even though only three or four are needed at a time on any given day.

Because mops could be used as weapons, Merrill said, the extras were moved to the locked warehouse. Now if someone needs a mop, it's requisitioned and accounted for like everything else inside the prison.

"It's better for management to know where things are and it's better for the safety of the employees and the prisoners," Merrill said.

He credits his staff for taking on the goal of accreditation but said inmates were also helpful.

Prisoners are assigned duties such as cleaning and organizing cells before recreation time each day, Merrill said, and are responding well to being held accountable.

"The structure can be good for everyone and the inmates are really responding well to it," Merrill said. "In addition to the staff, the inmates have been instrumental in participating in the tremendous amount of cleaning that's been done, which makes it much healthier for the staff and the inmates."

Merrill said that accreditation by the ACA puts his facilities among the elite. Not every state has accredited facilities, and Merrill is pleased to have his included on the list.

"Kudos has to go to our staff for their work and dedication," he said. "This isn't an easy job for them and it's not an easy job for their families. The unfortunate thing is that this is a 24/7 facility and the staff works odd days and odd shifts to make it run smooth. The staff gives up a lot and so do their families and I'd like to see more people thank them for their hard work."

"In this business, there's a lot of focus on the negatives, but this is a very positive thing," he added.

The next step, Merrill said, is a meeting sometime in the next few months with the accreditation board. The board will then identify the deficiencies and inquire about corrective action plans before making a final determination on whether the facilities will receive accreditation.

"Typically that's how it happens," Merrill said. "I don't foresee a problem making accreditation at this point, given our high scores."

Post Mon 27 Feb, 2006 9:10 am 
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tumbleweed
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Very impressive. cheers
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Post Mon 27 Feb, 2006 11:04 am 
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Essyllt
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Now all the ex-cons can boast "I went to an accredited prison".

Post Sat 04 Mar, 2006 7:41 am 
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