ACA standards: 123 years of evolution.
ACA standards are the continuation of a correctional process that began in 1870 when the Association published the first principles designed to improve working conditions for the staff and living conditions for prisoners. They represent the collective wisdom and experience of tens of thousands of corrections professionals, organizations and citizens interested in the efficient and effective operation of corrections in America. ACA standards development efforts have been guided by the principles of the ACA presidents, officers and committee members who have served the membership since 1870.
Since 1974, 104 individuals have served as members of the Standards Committee and 83 commissioners have been elected and/or appointed to the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections. This total of 187 persons has been supported by the 182 members of the Association's Executive Committees and Boards of Governors representing every state in the nation and Canada, along with advisory input from 14 countries in Europe, Asia and South America. Few would dispute the fact that this group includes the major correctional experts of the 20th century.
The widespread acceptance of ACA standards is illustrated by the fact that more than 140,000 manuals have been distributed throughout the world during the past decade.
I urge you to review the listings printed in the appendix of ACA manuals. These individuals and organizations who have been involved in the standards and accreditation movement include representatives from every profession, trade, and operational division associated with corrections, along with representatives and members from other associations including the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the National Sheriff's Association, the American Institute of Architects, the National Association of Counties, and each of ACA chapters and affiliate organizations.
The goals of ACA standards and principles have remained constant and unswerving for more than 123 years. During that entire period, the Association has published materials reflecting the consensus opinions of the profession to set forth the principles, policies and standards necessary to maintain correctional facilities that are safe, humane, efficient and effective.
ACA standards are occasionally criticized as being a tool to promote "country club" prisons, while others believe the entire American correctional system is "barbaric and unconstitutional." Neither criticism is accurate, even though there may be instances when part of either or both opinions is valid. Professional ACA standards are prepared with several constituencies in mind. These include:
* the citizens who have been victimized by crime;
* the staff who work in correctional systems;
* the incarcerated inmates who serve sentences;
* the judges and court officers who impose sentences;
* the legislative and executive offices that are responsible for corrections; and
* the taxpayers who provide the fiscal support for corrections.
Consistent with the effort to encourage continuing commentary from that entire constituency, forms are included in the appendix of ACA manuals to enable the submission of proposed revisions. Proposals for standards changes are reviewed by the Standards Committee, Commission staff, and all ACA chapters and affiliates with specific interests or expertise pertinent to the proposed standards. This process of review ensures the profession that ACA standards will continue to serve as the benchmarks for self-improvement.
I am personally proud to be associated with this historical development in the improvement of American corrections. I also am hopeful we can continue to work together as correctional professionals to ensure that the work of our forebearers is not wasted and that scholars of the future will recognize our efforts as a major contribution to corrections in the 20th century.
George M. Phyfer is chairman of the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections and director of the Alabama Department of Youth Services.
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|Title Annotation:||Accreditation Byline; American Correctional Association|
|Author:||Phyfer, George M.|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1994|
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