Like many public safety agencies, the Northampton County (PA) Department of Corrections (NCDOC) regularly updates policies to meet federal, state and local laws while maintaining the safety and security of the public, staff and inmates. With this comes challenges in ensuring policies do not overlap with other departments or procedures while continuing to meet requirements. Current policies evolve over time, and the result is a complicated, sometimes contradictory set of intertwined documents that are difficult and time-consuming to update or maintain.
Recently, NCDOC’s Director Daniel Keen, who is also the First Vice President of the Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association (PPWA), took a huge step forward in addressing this challenge. Rather than continuing status quo, NCDOC has contracted with Lexipol, the nation’s leading provider of corrections policies and related training, to lead them into the future of automated corrections policy updates and related training.
Lexipol makes it easy to incorporate the American Correctional Association (ACA) standards, which will be critical when we move forward with building a new facility.
“It came down to three main factors for us: safety, time and efficiency,” Keen says. “To develop a policy internally can be very time-consuming. This time takes away from other high-level or impending responsibilities that need to be met.” Lexipol will provide NCDOC with policies that meet state and federal laws and are vetted by public safety attorneys and corrections experts. “This is a way to protect the staff, public and inmates in the best interest of all,” Keen says. “This is not Lexipol’s first rodeo. This is a professional organization with expert attorneys that provides the solution we need.”
Lexipol will provide more than 155 policies written specifically for corrections facilities in Pennsylvania. The NCDOC will review and customize those policies as needed to fit the agency’s needs. Keen expects to begin that process by June, reviewing and approving three to six policies a week.
County Executive John Brown and Director of Administration Catherine Allen were supportive of the decision as soon as they saw the potential for increased efficiencies. Implementing Lexipol will allow Keen and the other facility administrators to devote more time to overseeing day-to-day operations. “We’ll be able to shift the administration’s focus on the operational needs to a more hands-on approach,” Keen says.
Another key component of the Lexipol service is daily training bulletins to help staff apply policies, with questions to test their comprehension. “You can require people to sign a policy, but you can’t make them read it,” Keen says. “When the individual is provided with training questions, this ensures management that first, they have fully read the policy and second, they understood the operational requirements.”
Although cost-effective use of resources drove the decision to contract with Lexipol, Keen underscores that implementing the Lexipol content will also support several long-term NCDOC strategic objectives. “Lexipol makes it easy to incorporate the American Correctional Association (ACA) standards, which will be critical when we move forward with building a new facility,” he says. “We intend to seek ACA accreditation; if we can start lining our policies up now, that will make the accreditation process that much easier for us.”
Lexipol’s policy and training content also support the current push for cultural change within the NCDOC. “Our facility dates back to 1871,” Keen says. “As a result, we’re looking at putting a new face on corrections, toward a more treatment-based, reentry-based culture. Punishment isn’t medicine anymore.”
Lexipol’s policies will help reinforce that cultural shift. “This is forecasting our future: to be a better facility, one where all staff are on board with the vision and we’re all following the same clear, commonsense policies,” Keen says. “No more ‘we’ve always done it that way’—we’re done with that. We are moving forward.”
Lexipol’s Custody Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides legally defensible, up-to-date policies that support a professional, progressive environment for officers and inmates. Contact us today to find out more.