President Chunn reveals plans for ACA during closing plenary.
"There are certain values that I have that are important to ACA," Chunn said. "One is participation. We have work to do. And we must do it at all times, not just at conferences or other meetings. The beauty of ACA is that anyone who is a member--and even those who are not yet members--can contribute to our process." Building upon the theme of participation, Chunn discussed the importance of inclusivity. "We are an organization of people at the line level and at the management level. We must build a joint agenda," she said.
Building upon the theme of inclusivity that highlighted the keynote address of Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at ACA's 2004 Winter Conference in New Orleans, Chunn stressed the importance of reaching out to minorities, retirees and women as corrections strives to conquer the challenges of the future. "We have more to give together than we do as individuals," she said. "Together, we can combat the aging work force and ensure that we do not lose the wisdom of those retiring from the profession. Together, we can find a way to combat disproportionate minority confinement. These are two examples of issues that we will combat ... together."
Each panel member was invited to give their perceptions of the challenges that corrections must face during the coming years. Panel members included James A. Gondles Jr., executive director of ACA; Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch; Dr. David L. Thomas, chairman of the ACA Commission on Accreditation for Corrections; and Robert J. Verdeyen, director of the ACA Standards and Accreditation Department.
Gondles summed up his view of the challenges facing corrections by recalling a quote from Robert F. Kennedy: "Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?'" Gondles used the quote to illustrate his belief that ACA must serve as an advocate to improve the corrections profession and change the way others view the profession. He noted that ACA joined several correctional organizations to quickly defend the profession against allegations of widespread abuses earlier this year. "ACA was quick to condemn the abuses in Iraq," Gondles said. "However, we do not believe that what occurred in that country is indicative of what happens in U.S. correctional systems. We will not be critical of the profession as a whole, and we will continue to advocate for those who do their jobs in a professional manner."
Fellner echoed those remarks by claiming that corrections has to work to improve its perception among the public. "ACA needs to speak out. It must have a strong voice inside the profession and outside the profession," she said. "ACA must uphold a vision of what confinement should be, a vision that upholds human rights and human dignity, a vision that's purpose is rehabilitation."
Both Thomas and Verdeyen discussed the role that standards have played in bringing about improvements to correctional facilities nationwide. Thomas specifically mentioned how openness and transparency and respect for the human rights of offenders, help the public to understand the mission of corrections and are keys to ensuring that facilities are well-managed.
As the dawn of Chunn's ACA presidency neared, she summed up her vision for ACA. "I value America and the ideals of our country," she said. "It is important to recognize that everyone makes sacrifices. We must remember, both individually and as an association, what we stand for. And we cannot be afraid to stand up for our beliefs."
Joey R. Weedon is director of Government and Public Affairs for the American Correctional Association.