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ACCA: Enhancing Inmates' Spiritual Lives.

"Of all reformatory agencies, religion is of first most importance, because [it is] most potent in the influence upon the heart and life," wrote the Rev. Enoch Cobb Wines, secretary of the American Correctional Association (ACA), in 1870 (Journal of Pastoral Care). Religion and chaplains played a significant part in ACA's formation and still fill an essential role today -- especially since the American Correctional Chaplains Association (ACCA) was founded more than 115 years ago.

With approximately 400 members, ACCA offers fellowship and support to correctional chaplains. As prison operations and philosophies continue to change, ACCA strives to define the role of correctional chaplaincy. Although the literature is unclear about the exact year ACCA was founded (1885 or 1886), it is ACA's first affiliate organization.

According to ACCA President Doris Woodruff, director of religious services and community involvement at the central office of the Indiana Department of Correction, one of the most important aspects of ACCA is maintaining chaplains' presence in ACA and advocating their role. The association meets these challenges through its Web site and newsletters, which keep chaplains abreast of the latest events and trends in the field and provides opportunities for chaplains to voice their concerns, successes and experiences. Further, members may contact officers with their concerns or questions.

"It is easy not to see beyond the walls of an institution," says Woodruff. "To belong to a professional organization gives [chaplains] a broader world view of what is happening in correctional chaplaincy, what the issues are and how they can broaden their understanding of their role as being part of a larger professional group."

ACCA also strongly supports the protection of offenders' religious rights. One way it does this is by keeping states apprised of the association's initiatives and providing material to state religious program administrators about developments in correctional chaplaincy and how the association may be able to help serve them. ACCA currently is promoting correctional chaplaincy and providing information about this profession to states that are trying to reduce chaplaincy staff and volunteers.

"Volunteers are vital to successful religious programming and more important, they have been professionally trained and will protect offenders' religious rights, develop programs for all faith groups and impprove the quality of programs, making sure they are integrated within the total system," says Woodruff. "Research shows that these programs do benefit offenders. ACCA continues to advocate that chaplains should be integrated into the overall program of the facility."

ACCA plans to continue its tradition of supporting the role of professional correctional chaplains and inmates' religious rights. "Our members bring diversity with their different faiths and backgrounds," says Woodruff. "Both members and leadership plan to continue their devotion to correctional chaplaincy, desire to protect offenders' religious rights and commitment of making a difference in inmates' lives."

Elizabeth A. Klug is assistant editor of Corrections Today.

Vital Statistics

Founded: Literature on the exact date ACCA was founded is unclear. The association was created in 1885 or 1886.

Objectives: ACCA strives to serve as a professional organization for correctional chaplains by providing a network of information and resources for its members and correctional administrators, formulating standards for chaplaincy and religious programs, developing and implementing certification, and communicating religious and spiritual aspects of corrections.

Leadership: ACCA is comprised of a president, first vice president, second vice president, secretary, treasurer, past president and six regional managers.

Membership: ACCA has approximately 400 members.

Publications: ACCA publishes a quarterly newsletter.

Conferences: ACCA holds business meetings in conjunction with ACA conferences and congresses, as well as occasional training and special events. Regions have conferences as well.
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Title Annotation:American Correctional Chaplains Association
Author:Klug, Elizabeth A.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:595
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