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CAMA and ACA: supporting the accreditation process through partnership.

The Correctional Accreditation Managers' Association (CAMA) was born at an American Correctional Association conference in 1987 in New Orleans. It had been nearly 10 years since the first accreditation awards were granted to four community correctional facilities, and the need was becoming apparent for training and networking for those involved in the accreditation process. Agencies and facilities were designating accreditation managers to oversee the process, and they were often figuring out the process on their own. These accreditation managers needed a venue for training, networking and general communication, and CAMA was created to fill that need. The first CAMA conference was held in 1988 in Columbia, S.C., with 58 attendees. The following year, Dan McGhee was elected the association's first president. In the years that followed, CAMA quickly grew in both participation and structure. Its newsletter, The Criterion, became the official voice of CAMA, and the annual conference became known for its low-fee, quality training and networking.

In 2007, CAMA held its 20th annual conference in Covington, Ky. This conference featured many of the early leaders of CAMA, who assisted the board in developing a strategic plan. The strategic plan, distributed to board members at the conference, began with the following mission statement: "To support and assist correctional agencies worldwide in achieving and maintaining ACA accreditation for their agency/facility through their accreditation manager by offering professional training, networking and technical assistance. CAMA recognizes that no one person is responsible for the accreditation process for any given agency/facility or department but believes that a firm foundation for the process can and should be established through the accreditation manager."

CAMA's strategic plan also identified four goals for the organization. To:

* Provide professional training and technical assistance;

* Communicate accreditation and CAMA-related information with correctional professionals;

* Identify and cultivate opportunities to enhance the CAMA organization; and

* Conduct an annual training conference.

The Annual Conference

A primary focus of CAMA since its very beginning has been the annual training conference, which is a two-part event. Held every year between mid-April and early June, the conference begins with two days of panel hearings conducted by ACA staff. These Friday and Saturday hearings conclude with an awards luncheon on Sunday. Because the number of awards and number of attendees are considerably smaller than at an ACA conference, all conference attendees are invited to attend the awards luncheon. It is a unique opportunity for those agencies at the beginning of the process to see the culmination of the efforts of those who have achieved accreditation.


The conference begins on Sunday morning with an opening session and concludes at noon on Tuesday with a closing session and annual business meeting. In between, attendees are able to attend a variety of accreditation-related workshops, the awards luncheon and social events, as well as interact with vendors who are involved with correctional facilities. Workshops cover topics such as key and tool control; flammable, caustic and toxic materials; policy and procedure development; file construction; preparing for an audit; responding to noncompliance; meeting medical standards; and more.

The annual conference also features the much anticipated "Welcome Book" contest. While not a mandatory part of an audit, most agencies prepare a welcome book to help auditors get to know the agency and learn unique and interesting facts about the place they are about to audit. Agencies and facilities are invited to send in their welcome books to be judged, with the winner receiving a year's worth of bragging rights.

CAMA has two annual awards that are presented at the conference. The Accreditation Manager of the Year Award is given to a nominated individual who has helped his or her agency achieve or maintain accreditation, often under difficult conditions. The Linda J. Allen Scholarship is awarded to an individual who has been involved in the accreditation process and is financially unable to attend the conference without assistance. These two awards cover travel and attendance expenses up to a set amount. CAMA periodically presents the Executive Board Award to an individual who has contributed to the success of the organization. In 2011, CAMA recognized James A. Gondles Jr., for his many years of support.


CAMA is largely a volunteer organization. A part-time executive director was approved several years ago, but the organization relies heavily on the elected officers and board members. The board is comprised of members from various regions of the country to ensure geographical diversity. Board members are sought from a variety of correctional settings including adult, juvenile, institutional, community and military corrections. In addition, a vendor representative sits on the board as an adviser to ensure that the board is aware of the needs of the association's vendor supporters. CAMA officers and board members are elected biannually by the membership.

The ACA/CAMA Partnership

From the beginning, ACA and CAMA have enjoyed a strong partnership. ACA has provided panel hearings, auditor training, standards updates and an insight into the accreditation process. Accreditation managers have the opportunity to get to know their accreditation specialists. While ACA is responsible for the promulgation of standards, the administration of the accreditation process and the recruitment and training of auditors, CAMA has taken on a primary role in the training of accreditation managers and the preparation of agencies and facilities for the audit.

One primary benefit of the ACA/CAMA partnership has been that auditors and accreditation managers have a venue to receive the same information at the same time. Many professionals who are employed as accreditation managers, or have that duty as part of their job, are also auditors for ACA, While ACA and CAMA are different organizations with different missions, there is a clear overlap that has been beneficial to both groups. CAMA's success over the past 25 years is due in no small part to the support provided by ACA.


Communications Efforts

The rapid rise of technology in the past decade has allowed CAMA to expand into new areas of communication. The CAMA website contains information about membership, past and upcoming conferences, vendor contact information, accreditation tools and more. CAMA now maintains a Facebook page so that members and other interested parties can post messages and answers to accreditation-related questions. CAMANet is a user group, open to members only, which allows participants to email questions about their accreditation practices to other members. To save costs and reduce waste, The Criterion is now an e-newsletter, sent to members three times a year.

CAMA has also experienced a new international focus on the accreditation process. CAMA 2011 in Miami welcomed a delegation from the United Arab Emirates. CAMA anticipates attendees from Mexico at the 2012 conference in Austin, Texas, and will seek other opportunities to provide training and support to accreditation efforts in those and other countries.

From an idea in New Orleans nearly a quarter of a century ago to electronic venues that did not even exist at the time, CAMA has strived to meet the needs of accreditation managers and agencies as they face the challenges of ACA accreditation. Accreditation is a rigorous process that requires a dedicated commitment and a strong sense of purpose, and the effort is made easier through networking, support and training. Twenty-five years later, CAMA's principles of communication, support and partnership are as strong as ever.

David K. Taylor is supervisor of the Montgomery County Adult Probation in Dayton, Ohio, and is executive director of the Correctional Accreditation Managers' Association.
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Title Annotation:CT FEATURE; American Correctional Association and Correctional Accreditation Managers' Association
Author:Taylor, David K.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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