Warden reports positive ACA audit

From staff reports


The Winston Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility recently received a review and positive report from an American Correctional Association (ACA) audit.

New Warden Neal Higgason reported to the Winston County Board of Supervisors the positive audit during the November 18 meeting.

“All went well,” said Warden Higgason.

The ACA auditor visited the facility Nov. 13 and 14 and inspected the facility, reviewed facility records, and spoke with inmates and staff.

The auditor’s review noted that the deficiencies in the April audit had been corrected and all requirements had been achieved. An April audit of the facility had resulted in the facility receiving probationary status of the ACA accreditation. Winston County Sheriff addressed the April audit problems by appointing a new warden in August to bring the facility back up to all standards. A loss of ACA accreditation could have resulted in a loss of all state inmates. Correctional facilities in Mississippi must be ACA accredited to house state inmates. The ACA insures that the facilities meet all state, and federal policies and mandates.

“We could not afford to run the facility without state inmates,” said Higgason.

The facility presently has 280 state inmates in its care. The facility should be removed from probation in February when

Sheriff Pugh, Higgason and other staff attend a ACA conference in Tampa Florida in February.

Warden Higgason recognized the staff of the facility for their hard work to get the facility in line with all ACA standards.

“”The staff has really stepped up,” said Higgason. “We could not have done this without the staff’s hard work and cooperation.”

The facility employs 46 staff members.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a correctional officer and serve the community in that way,” said Higgason.

As part of the new leadership, Higgason has implemented a line of changes since taking the helm at the facility.

Higgason noted that with a new warden came a new deputy warden and ACA case manager, new house rules for all inmates, a review of all standard operating procedures, a review of all after action incidents, a full plan for cross training all officers and through review of the facility.

Higgason worked with Mississippi Department of Corrections to and his staff to cut down on contraband at the facility. MDOC recently sent in their special contraband team at the facility and helped remove about 500 pieces of contraband. One cell phone can equal up to 3 contraband items.

Higgason noted that the staff has worked hard on keeping out contraband and has brought the number down to less than 250 items.

Higgason thanked MDOC and the Winston County Board of Supervisors for their support in the process.

Supervisor Mike Peterson thanked Higgason for his role in working in ACA accreditation along with helping save money at the facility.

The Winston County Board of Supervisors in other matters on Nov. 18:

• Discussed with County engineer Jimmy Kemp the state maintenance inspection of roads with the state engineer Dec. 12 and 13.

• Discussed completion of the Public Land Highways project and removal of project signs.

• Discussed the per construction conference upcoming for the Old Highway 25 route.

• discussed and approved purchase for pylons for the Triplett Store bridge to be built.

• Approved the previous minutes

• Discussed correcting and reinstatement of some Homestead charge backs.

• Approved Sixteen section lease for county barn.

• Amended recap to assessment roles. Approved to move forward to collect taxes. Discussed collecting taxes by tax assessor.

• Approved Kim Ming dues to Mississippi circuit clerk association.

• Noted the resignation of a deputy from Sheriff’s Department for personal reasons. Personnel executive session.

• Approved purchase of AC unit at health department from the lowest quote.

• approved hiring new chaplain at the facility.

• Discussed fencing project at WCCRF from a request by MDOC.

• Discussed a special meeting on Hancock bank refinancing of the WCCRCF funds.

• Held an Executive session on personnel and litigation.

The next regular meeting of the board is Dec. 2 at 9 a.m.