The American Correctional Association, or ACA, is an umbrella group of corrections professionals and organizations working in, operating, or doing business with prisons. As of 2001, 89% of the ACA's member organizations are in the public sector, with private corporations and other organizations comprising the other 11% of the ACA's membership.

Founded in 1870, the ACA was originally known as the American Prison Association. The name of the organization was changed in 1954 to "reflect...the expanding philosophy of corrections and its increasingly important role within the community and society as a whole."

The ACA is responsible for setting industry standards and overseeing the accreditation of prisons, jails, and other corrections facilities. Accreditation is a voluntary process, and roughly 20% of state corrections facilities are not ACA-accredited. Accredited facilities, according to the ACA, are less vulnerable to lawsuits and cost less to insure.

There is concern among criminologists, prisoner advocacy groups, and other ACA critics that the accreditation process lacks rigor, and that paying audit fees to become accredited allows a facility to purchase a "rubber stamp" of approval that says little about whether the facility is in compliance with standards of safety and effectiveness. Few facilities fail the accreditation process, and one recently accredited jail-- the Nashua Street Jail in Boston-- received exactly the same score from ACA auditors as it gave itself on a required pre-accreditation "self-evaluation". Seven officers of the Nashua Street facility were indicted on charges of severe brutality, less than a year after the jail received accreditation.


References:

The ACA: www.corrections.com/aca

6/20/01 Boston Globe article, "Suffolk Jail Audit Group is Faulted," by Francie Latour.

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