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Coming of age: the International Corrections and Prisons Association.

In March 1998, Canadian Commissioner of Corrections Ole Ingstrup, with support from the Correctional Service of Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency and Queen's University, hosted an international symposium called "Beyond Prisons" in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. With a goal of addressing the issue of the worldwide increase in incarceration, the 80 delegates from 35 countries spent four days discussing alternatives to prisons. According to Karen Wiseman, the Canadian director general of inter-governmental affairs, "On the last day of the conference, a spontaneous and widely supported resolution was passed to maintain links made at the symposium through the creation of an international association for correctional progress." In the March 18, 1998, resolution, the delegates resolved to:

* Constitute themselves as an international association open to all individuals, agencies and other bodies interested in correctional services;

* Adopt as the association's objectives the promotion of best correctional practices, the encouragement of research and informed discussion on correctional policy, the dissemination of information among members, and public education;

* Invite Canada to continue its leadership in this area by providing organizational support to the association in its First two years; and

* Encourage their respective governments to provide ongoing support for the association once established.

Three months later, in June 1998, the Israel Prison Service hosted an international summit titled "Israel's 50th Jubilee Prison Conference." About 50 corrections professionals from 22 nations discussed critical prison issues, toured Israeli prisons and, as part of the formal conference agenda, addressed the subject of the "Establishment of an International Correctional Organization." As a result of the discussions during the Beyond Prisons conference, a detailed draft proposal was prepared and served as the basis for the discussions, which resulted in the passage of the following resolution:

"We, the participants at Israel's 50th Jubilee Prison Conference, hereby propose the establishment of an international organization of prison services to deal with mutual professional concerns and issues. We do so in recognition of the need for the establishment of a permanent framework which will contribute an infrastructure for the creation of tools for cooperation and exchange of professional information between the member countries on issues with which the prison services deal.

We propose that membership of the organization should be on a national basis and we propose the establishment of a de facto steering committee to organize the holding of a founding conference within twelve months [amended to read "the year 2000"] for the formal establishment of the organization.

The steering committee's function will be, inter alia, to draft the organization's constitution and guidelines and prepare and present detailed resolutions and workplans for the founding conference. We call upon the prison services throughout the world to join and/or assist the steering committee in its important work."

An Organization Is Born

The steering committee met three months later in September 1998 in Vancouver, Canada. That meeting turned into a strategic planning session and resulted in three important items.

First, the organization was formally named the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA). It was recognized that the term "corrections" was not used in many nations.

Next, a mission statement was established. The goal of ICPA is "to contribute to public safety and healthier communities by encouraging and enabling best correctional practices in prisons and outside communities." Finally, six values were conceived:

* The enhancing of public safety by the development of sound correctional and criminal justice policy;

* The respect for the dignity of all individuals and the protection of their rights in accordance with the U.N. Standards and Norms in Criminal Justice, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

* The expansion and testing of the theoretical and empirical body of knowledge that underpins professionalism in corrections;

* The open and free sharing of ideas, knowledge, values and experience that is essential for sustained growth and development of all communities;

* The importance of strong partnership, built upon mutual respect and ongoing collaboration; and

* The recognition that sound correctional practices contribute to the harmony, health and prosperity of communities.

The Correctional Service of Canada agreed to provide staff and logistical support for at least two years in order to allow ICPA to develop. Membership was open to all individuals and organizations interested in correctional and prison services who could further the objectives of the association. Subsequent to the meeting, ICPA was incorporated as a Canadian nonprofit organization and established its initial office in Ottawa in the headquarters of the Correctional Service of Canada.

On Sept. 1, 2002, ICPA was able to move its office from the Correctional Service of Canada to an independent location. It should be noted that due to ICPA policy and philosophy, no board members receive compensation, including payment of travel expenses, for any work they do on behalf of ICPA such as costs of attending the annual conferences or representing ICPA at international events. Similarly, no nation or individual is provided funding by ICPA for his or her membership or costs associated with ICPA events. In some cases, however, ICPA is able to help individuals with limited financial ability to rind sponsors. This is unique among international organizations, including those affiliated with the U.N., and though the board had some concerns that it might hinder full participation from developing nations, the attendance at annual conferences and participation in various ICPA activities proved this not to be a major issue.

In 2005, ICPA moved its operating office from Canada to Scotland as more European nations took leadership roles. Currently, ICPA maintains administrative support from offices in Canada, the U.S. and Scotland.

Activities and Events

From its inception, ICPA took an active role in providing input on corrections at international events and in relevant publications. It obtained consultative status with the U.N. and had representatives at the annual U.N. Crime Commission meetings in Vienna, Austria, and participated in ancillary meetings during the U.N. Crime Congresses in 2000 and 2005. ICPA representatives attended the European Penitentiary Conference in 1998; Asian Pacific Conference of Correctional Administrators in 1999; International Community Corrections Association meetings in 2000 and 2001; each of the American Correctional Association's conferences since 1999; Council of Europe in 1999 and 2002; Conference of the Eastern, Southern, Central African Heads of Correctional Services in 2001 and 2002; and many others. Since 2005, ICPA representatives have attended virtually every international prison-related meeting of significance.

Even before holding its own major conference, ICPA cosponsored, with the Correctional Service of Canada, an international Indigenous Symposium on Corrections, held in Vancouver, in March 1999. ICPA's inaugural conference was held in Budapest, Hungary, in October 1999. Annual conferences followed: Cape Town, South Africa (2000); Perth, Western Australia (2001); Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2002); Miami (2003); Beijing (2004); Edinburgh, Scotland (2005); Vancouver (2006); Bangkok, Thailand (2007); and the 10th anniversary conference was held in Prague, Czech Republic, in October 2008.

In addition to the annual conferences, ICPA partnered with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs to produce the manual Practical Guidelines for the Establishment of Correctional Services within Untied Nations Peace Operations in 2002. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, ICPA established the International Centre for Exchanging Best Correctional Practices in 2002.

A regional meeting concept was explored when ICPA, in cooperation with the correctional service of Norway, held a conference on "High-Risk Offenders Under the Age of 18" in Oslo, Norway. In addition to Europeans, delegates from Africa and Singapore attended. In conjunction with NATO, and in collaboration with the Israeli-based Institute for Counter-Terrorism and the Interdisciplinary Center, ICPA brought 25 international experts to a workshop in Israel to discuss "Human Rights versus Public Security in NATO Systems--Coping with Radicalism & Terror Activities Among Inmates."

Individuals representing ICPA have provided consultation services that range from the modest provision of information and material to extensive in-country evaluations. For example, a three-person team working in the Republic of Georgia made recommendations on the design and development of new correctional facilities. Again, ICPA participation was provided at no cost to those receiving the help and all ICPA participants worked on a voluntary basis.

Technical publications of ICPA include a planning manual for correctional facilities needs assessment and master planning and the Basic Training Manual for Correctional Workers. The Basic Training Manual was a collaborative effort with the International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council of the U.N. Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme and included input from more than 60 corrections and training professionals from nearly 60 nations. Like most ICPA work, this training manual is designed as a basis for others (especially developing nations) to develop their own manuals and is set up to be easily modified to incorporate each nation's unique social, political, cultural, religious, economic and philosophical approaches to corrections. However, in all cases, international standards and norms and humane treatment permeate all lesson plans. In some cases, several examples of individual lesson plans, post orders and mentoring guidelines are included to show how different jurisdictions might teach the same subject.

Communications and Constant Evaluation

"The world is so big and I am so small" could be considered the operating theme of ICPA. Realizing that correctional practice and philosophy can differ from nation to nation, but cognizant that it is a relatively small organization, ICPA works hard to exchange information and ideas with as broad an audience as possible. Currently, more than 3,500 individuals from 93 nations consider themselves affiliated in some way with ICPA. The ICPA Web site ( has grown from an in-house communications link to a major corrections information source. It receives in excess of 21,000 hits a month from 153 nations.

ICPA's 10th anniversary conference in Prague hosted 320 attendees (not counting several dozen Czech participants) from 58 nations. Within one week of the end of the conference, most of the 80 papers and PowerPoint presentations from the conference were on ICPA's Web site for anyone interested in corrections to access.

As the world continues to change, so must ICPA. Thus, in addition to the initial strategic planning session held in 1998, the association has held three additional major strategic planning/organization review sessions. The last such activity was a two-day intensive meeting held in Prague, prior to the start of the annual conference. The initial results of that meeting were presented to the membership and their continuing input will be sought during the coming year.

Enhancing Public Safety Worldwide

International operations are extremely complex and expensive. The rapid growth and influence of ICPA in international corrections happened with very few dedicated staff who were seconded (1) from public and private organizations and a large number of volunteers. A few grants helped finance specific activities, but nearly all the administrative and support expenses have been covered by the modest individual memberships and a growing number of national and corporate members.

As of this writing, 21 nations pay a membership fee, as do 18 private organizations. That number is expanding and the organization's financial future looks stable.

Contributions to the ICPA Web-based library and resource center as well as the use of the forum, is growing rapidly as local, national and international agencies increase their use of ICPA as a source of information or to find potential advisers.

Well-founded and historically strong national correctional agencies, such as ACA, work closely with ICPA. ACA officers, staff and members were instrumental in the formulation of ICPA and continue to work cooperatively with it. Governments and international organizations are beginning to sign memoranda of understanding and similar agreements with ICPA in order to formalize what were previously ad hoc arrangements.

From all indications, it appears ICPA is fulfilling the dream of the group that spontaneously called for its creation in March 1998--to promote and share ethical and effective correctional practices with the aim of enhancing public safety worldwide.


(1) Seconded refers to when a nation or organization sends staff to work for another nation or organization and continues to cover their salaries.

Gary Hill is president of CEGA Services Inc., and an international consultant in crime prevention, criminal justice and corrections. Hill was a founding member of the International Corrections and Prisons Association, served as the organization's initial treasurer and is currently on its board of directors.
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Title Annotation:International
Author:Hill, Gary
Publication:Corrections Compendium
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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