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New Mexico training academy makes accreditation history.

Exciting goals are always the best--they engender enthusiasm and motivate everyone involved.

In the fall of 1991, the staff of the New Mexico Corrections Academy in Santa Fe set such a goal for themselves--to be the first corrections academy in the nation to earn ACA accreditation.

We achieved our goal in January at the ACA Winter Conference in Miami. The accreditation award represents a milestone for New Mexico corrections, as well as for ACA and the corrections profession. It marks the first time accreditation has been awarded to a correctional organization whose primary mission is not to supervise offenders, but to serve corrections professionals.

It also is the first time an ACA manual of standards has focused entirely on the training and advancement of correctional staff. The standards were developed to address academies that not only have systemwide training responsibilities, but also have a physical plant--offices, classrooms, a dining facility, a physical training area and lodging. At least 33 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have residential training facilities to which the new standards may apply.

We pursued accreditation for three specific reasons: we needed a goal to which every employee could contribute; we needed something to get everyone pulling in the same direction; and we wanted to be one of the best. ACA accreditation and the accreditation process helped us meet each of these objectives.

No one can get excited about achieving a goal that only establishes mediocrity. That is why achieving ACA accreditation, which is based on standards of excellence, provides such a great motivational vehicle and mechanism to achieve excellence.

A training academy must be a model of professional excellence, and to be effective it also must be perceived as such. Accreditation fulfills both of these requirements.

Our accreditation represents tremendous progress for New Mexico corrections. The academy began in the basement of the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 1978 and often had to be located in surplus barracks, vacant cells and an abandoned garage. We evolved from providing nothing more than 40 hours of staff orientation to offering a statewide training program that trains more than 1,200 staff each year in an $11 million training complex.

The academy has provided technical assistance to cities, counties, other states, federal agencies and places as far away as New South Wales, Australia. The academy training complex, which was completed in August 1991, consists of an administration and classroom building, a dormitory building and a physical training building.

The administration and classroom building contains administrative offices, five classrooms and instructors' offices. The dorm building can house 112 people in 56 two-person rooms. The physical training building includes a full-size gymnasium, a weight room, two racquetball courts, a small arms firing range and a cafeteria. The academy also has its own business office, a personnel office and a maintenance section. Sixteen full-time staff provide training and training support.

Correctional officer recruitment, testing, selection and basic training are a major part of the academy's mission. The basic training course is a pre-service, nine-week residential course. The academy also offers training for classification officers, probation and parole officers, correctional officer specialists and correctional managers at all levels. Specialty courses such as tactical team operations, courtroom demeanor and other courses round out the annual training schedule.

The academy's basic corrections courses have been accredited by local colleges. Staff who successfully complete these courses can be awarded college credits.

Going from a basement operation to being the first ACA accredited corrections academy makes us very proud. We will be happy to share our policies and procedures and lesson plans with other corrections academies and to help those interested in accreditation any way we can.

Alan Shuman is director of the New Mexico Corrections Academy. He can be contacted at the Corrections Academy, P.O. Box 5277, Santa Fe, NM 87502; (505) 827-8900.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Accreditation Byline; New Mexico Corrections Academy in Santa Fe
Author:Shuman, Alan
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:639
Previous Article:Corrections: Dilemmas and Directions.
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