The American Correctional Association (ACA) is the premier organization for standards for departments of corrections in America. Having developed and progressed from 1870 to today, ACA is "THE" accreditation association for acceptable standards; there is no other. As the history of ACA has progressed and the standards fine-tuned, ACA has become the venue for correctional experts and practitioners to associate. Warden Mickey Ameigh's arrival to Wyoming County Correctional Facility (WCCF) in Tunkhannock, Pa., is just one example for the "need" and "value" of standards as well as how far behind institutions have been, even in the twentieth century. Ameigh came from the U.S. Federal system and arrived at the WCCF in 1993, making rapid-fire changes immediately, as he says, "It was so poised for a monumental calamity that I felt there was no choice." Amazingly horrendous, there were no regular counts, no regular inmate searches, no disciplinary system, nor did inmate infractions even go on record. Mickey Ameigh brought changes and was selected as one of the "Best in the Business" by ACA in 2002.
ACA is by constitution lead by a broad spectrum of experts and practitioners "in the field" – elected to the positions that in turn maintain and fine-tune the standards for the "Correctional Profession" itself. In other words, ACA is not simply another one of those thousands of associations that have a small subculture of like minded persons. Rather, ACA has evolved into a first-rate organization that is determining the future of incarceration itself in the United States. Many states are following and seeking full accreditation.
The next stage of evolution for ACA remains on the near horizon: that stage will be attained when its standards and accreditation will have the same weight and legal force as the major accreditation bodies for our medical and educational institutions.
Proudly, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has been aggressively seeking full ACA accreditation for all of its facilities in the last several years, and many of TDCJ's institutions have achieved that accreditation. Proudly, the TDCJ has one of the lowest escapes rates among the largest institutions in the United States, doing for many decades many of the things Ameigh brought to the WCCF in 1993.
However, with respect to TDCJ's Chaplaincy as a "Department" under TDCJ's Programs and Services Division, for the last ten years the Division has "lowered" the standards in such a fashion that even the determination of how the TDCJ Chaplaincy is operated and led is confusing.
TDCJ's Division lowered the entry requirements for the last two directors of chaplains so that prospective persons could qualify prior to employment. With respect to the former, they lowered the CPE requirements to "1" unit for the Director of Chaplains while all regular chaplains have to obtain at least "2" units to move up the pay scale from Chaplain I to Chaplain II. For the current director of chaplains, the division lowered the standing "5" years of experience as a "Chaplain" to only "2" years of experience.
Furthermore, given the enormous contributions of the TDCJ Chaplaincy Services that have been obfuscated by the Division, the two previous "Directors of Chaplains" would not meet the minimum requirements to be a "Certified Chaplain" under the American Correctional Chaplains Association (ACCA) which is the first professional affiliate with ACA. This is not good business, but rather a regression. More to the point, with respect to the Chaplaincy Services, the TDCJ's Division has sought to lower standards well below the national standard, even to the effect that the Directors of Chaplains need not have the level of excellence (read experience and credentials) expected of "regular" chaplains qualifying for Certification.
TDCJ has a good reputation and national stature, and TDCJ's own quest for excellence is recently exemplified in it's pursuit of ACA accreditation. Yet with respect to TDCJ Chaplaincy, the Division has hired those well below the national standards, disproportionately represented the Chaplaincy Volunteer contribution to TDCJ, kept from the TDCJ Board of Directors the enormous contributions of chaplains in a manner not equal to any other profession in their report and has withheld public information several times necessitating the intervention of the Texas' own Attorney General's office before release was secured.
That means several articles of ACA's Code of Ethics have been shunned with respect to Chaplaincy. We chaplains love our job, and a few of us have arisen to pursue excellence and equality based upon contribution, education and experience.
Certainly relevant to Chaplain Professional Equity is in the history of ACA itself. As a matter of historical record, "the driving force behind the convening of the original conference in 1879" of the American Correctional Association was Enoch Cobb Wines. And he was a minister and a teacher. Chaplains have been within the Correctional environment from the beginning, and the American Correctional Chaplains Association was the first affiliate with ACA. All the MORE reason that TDCJ's Programs and Services Division should support Equity and Excellence and National Standards and not support the last ten years of regression and lowering of standards.
The TDCJ is an accomplished penal institution with worldwide notoriety. How is it that twice the job descriptions are lowered to accommodate specific individuals over several others who met national standards? How it is that the chaplains pursuing excellence were repeatedly denied public information on the Chaplaincy Services and forced for almost an entire year to utilize the Texas' Attorney General's Office to force the release of information on TDCJ, MHMR and TYC Chaplaincy Services?
In a nutshell, the Chaplaincy Services can only begin to
truly pursue excellence when they are granted equality and measures taken to
insure that national standards are sought and that quality can be pursued.
The American Correctional Association expects of its members unfailing honesty, respect for the dignity and individuality of human beings and a commitment to professional and compassionate service. To this end, we subscribe to the following principles.
1. Members shall respect and protect the civil and legal rights of all individuals.
2. Members shall treat every professional situation with concern for the welfare of the individuals involved and with no intent to personal gain.
3. Members shall maintain relationships with colleagues to promote mutual respect within the profession and improve the quality of service.
4. Members shall make public criticism of their colleagues or their agencies only when warranted, verifiable, and constructive.
5. Members shall respect the importance of all disciplines within the criminal justice system and work to improve cooperation with each segment.
6. Members shall honor the public's right to information and share information with the public to the extent permitted by law subject to individuals' right to privacy.
7. Members shall respect and protect the right of the public to be safeguarded from criminal activity.
8. Members shall refrain from using their positions to secure personal privileges or advantages.
9. Members shall refrain from allowing personal interest to impair objectivity in the performance of duty while acting in an official capacity.
10. Members shall refrain from entering into any formal or informal activity or agreement which presents a conflict of interest or is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of duties.
11. Members shall refrain from accepting any gifts, services, or favors that is or appears to be improper or implies an obligation inconsistent with the free and objective exercise of professional duties.
12. Members shall clearly differentiate between personal views/statements and views/statements/positions made on behalf of the agency or Association.
13. Members shall report to appropriate authorities any corrupt or unethical behaviors in which there is sufficient evidence to justify review.
14. Members shall refrain from discriminating against any individual because of race, gender, creed, national origin, religious affiliation, age, disability, or any other type of prohibited discrimination.
15. Members shall preserve the integrity of private information; they shall refrain from seeking information on individuals beyond that which is necessary to implement responsibilities and perform their duties; members shall refrain from revealing nonpublic information unless expressly authorized to do so.
16. Members shall make all appointments, promotions, and dismissals in accordance with established civil service rules, applicable contract agreements, and individual merit, rather than furtherance of personal interests.
17. Members shall respect, promote, and contribute to a work place that is safe, healthy, and free of harassment in any form.
Dates of Revisions:
Adopted August 1975 at the 105th Congress of Correction;
Revised August 1990 at the 120th Congress of Correction;
Revised August 1994 at the 124th Congress of Correction.
More than a century ago, in 1870, leaders in American corrections, meeting with their international colleagues in Cincinnati, Ohio, first developed principles stating the beliefs and values underlying the practice of their profession. As a result of this meeting, the National Prison Association was founded, an organization that has subsequently evolved into the American Correctional Association. The foresight of these leaders' thinking over 130 years ago is evident in this brief excerpt from that document:
The treatment of criminals by society is for the protection of society. But since such treatment is directed to the criminal rather than the crime, its great object should be his moral regeneration. The state has not discharged its whole duty to the criminal when it has punished him, nor even when it has reformed him. Having raised him up, it has further duty to aid in holding him up. In vain shall we have given the convict an improved mind and heart, in vain shall we have imparted to him the capacity for industrial labor and the desire to advance himself by worthy means, if, on his discharge, he finds the world in arms against him, with none to trust him, none to meet him kindly, none to give him the opportunity of earning honest bread.
Although the language may be antiquated, the message is contemporary. The role of corrections is to assist in the prevention and control of delinquency and crime, but ultimately the prevention of criminal and delinquent behavior depends on the will of the individual and the constructive qualities of society and its basic entities: family, community, school, religion, and government.
As members of the American Correctional Association, we continue in the spirit of our founders by renewing and revising these principles in 2002, so that they may continue to guide sound corrections practices, make clear our philosophy and aims, and inspire cooperation and support from leaders of local, state, national, and international communities and organizations.
We believe that these principles of HUMANITY, JUSTICE, PROTECTION, OPPORTUNITY, KNOWLEDGE, COMPETENCE, and ACCOUNTABILITY are essential to the foundation of sound corrections policy and effective public protection.
Guided by the following principles, the American Correctional Association is enabled to benefit from the heritage of the past, plan and prepare for the future and "to lead" and "to serve" the correctional profession, our colleagues, our charges and our communities.
The dignity of individuals, the rights of all persons and the potential for human growth and development must be respected.
Social order in a democratic society depends upon full recognition of individual worth and respect for the dignity of all its members; therefore, laws, administrative policies and corrections practices must be governed by this principle and measured against standards of fairness and decency, whether applied to those under corrections care and control, its staff, crime victims, or the general public.
Corrections shares with other parts of the criminal justice system the obligation to balance the protection of the individual against excessive restrictions. To this end the least restrictive means of control and supervision consistent with public safety should be used. Incarceration should only be used with juveniles or adults charged with or convicted of crimes and for whom no other alternative disposition is safe and appropriate.
Corrections leadership must establish a management philosophy and ensure implementation by monitoring conformance; encouraging a positive environment; promoting positive relationships between and among offenders and staff; and providing opportunities for programming and resources for employees and offenders.
Corrections must demonstrate integrity, respect, dignity, fairness, and pursue a balanced program of humaneness, restoration, rehabilitation and the most appropriate sanctions consistent with public safety.
Unwarranted disparity in sentencing, undue length of sentences, and rigid sentencing structures are an injustice to society and the offender and create circumstances that are not in the best interest of justice, mercy, or public protection and must be resisted whenever possible.
Sanctions imposed for crimes or infractions should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offense; take into account the extent of participation in the crime or infraction and the criminal history of the offender; and follow impartial fact-finding and due process procedures.
Corrections leadership also must ensure that employees are treated with rigorous standards of fairness and justice; and that victims, witnesses, and all other citizens who come in contact with the criminal justice system receive fair, consistent, and concerned consideration and assistance, including restitution and/or compensation whenever appropriate.
Corrections has a duty to ensure the protection of the public, offenders under corrections supervision, corrections workers, and victims and survivors of crime.
Persons have the right to be protected from personal and/or psychological harm, loss of property and abuse of power. The overall protection of society is best enhanced through effective corrections community and institutional supervision, rehabilitation and training programs, compliance with legal mandates, offender and staff accountability, and meeting the basic needs of offenders.
Corrections has a special responsibility to protect from harm those who are involuntarily under its care and control; therefore, contemporary standards for healthcare, offender classification, due process, fire and building safety, nutrition, personal well-being, and clothing and shelter must be observed.
Because of the unique power that corrections has over those in its care, special vigilance must be observed to protect them from the abuse of that power. Offenders also must be protected from harming each other, corrections employees, victims of crime, and/or the public at large. Prevention of escape, assault, and property loss is an important goal of corrections and requires unique and specialized expertise.
Corrections is responsible for providing programs and constructive activities that promote positive change for responsible citizenship.
Opportunity for positive change or "reformation" is basic to the concept of corrections because punishment without the opportunity for redemption is unjust and ineffective. Hope is a prerequisite for the offender's restoration to responsible membership in society.
Sound corrections programs at all levels of government require a careful balance of community and institutional services that provide a range of effective, humane, and safe options for handling juvenile and adult offenders.
Corrections must provide classification systems for determining placement, degree of supervision, and programming that afford differential controls and services for juvenile and adult offenders, thus maximizing opportunity for the largest number.
Corrections leaders should actively engage the community to assist in the restoration and reintegration of the offender.
Offenders, juvenile or adult, whether in the community or in institutions, should be afforded the opportunity to engage in productive work, participate in programs including education, vocational training, religion, counseling, constructive use of leisure time, and other activities that enhance self-worth, community integration, and economic status.
Corrections must be committed to pursuing a continual search for new knowledge, technological advances, and effective practices that strive toward excellence and positive change.
Effective programs, policies, and practices are based on accurate information, applied and theoretical research, and are guided by professional standards and outcome measures of performance.
Corrections programming successes that are supported by sound research enhance the credibility of corrections and promote professional progress.
For optimum benefit, knowledge must be shared to enhance public awareness and support for effective policies and programs.
Corrections should contribute to and benefit from relationships among local, state, national, and international agencies, professional associations, and institutions of higher learning.
Corrections administrators, supervisors, and line employees must be professionally competent and committed to conducting their responsibilities in accordance with professional standards.
Selection, retention and promotion of all corrections staff and the selection and training of volunteers must be based on merit, without regard to political affiliation, race, gender or religion.
Staff, contract employees and volunteers must be well trained to understand the mission of the agency and to conduct themselves according to the agency's rules and professional standards.
Adequately trained and well-supervised volunteers are an essential element to the effective delivery of services to juvenile and adult offenders at all stages of the corrections process.
Remuneration for staff must adequately reflect the importance of the crucial role of corrections in the protection of society and should be commensurate with job requirements and performance.
Corrections agencies and organizations must promote opportunities for professional development for all employees.
The system of evaluating staff and volunteers must be fair and equitable.
Corrections officials shall ensure accountability in regard to the treatment and management of offenders, selection and performance of staff, and the interface with the community and victims.
Accountability is a keystone of sound corrections practice; therefore, all persons engaged in corrections activity should be held responsible for their actions and behavior.
Corrections administrators must be accountable for assuring the humane treatment of offenders, the support and empowerment of staff and adherence to the stated principles.
Staff must be accountable for advancing and implementing the goals and principles of corrections.
Offenders must be accountable for their actions, including making amends and restitution where practical.
ENTIRE Operating Costs – 3x over
Chaplaincy Contributes in Extraordinary Manner to
EVERY Mission Critical Function
Chaplains Need Equality & Logistical Support
 Buisch, Michele D. "Best in the Business: A True Mover and Shaker." Corrections Today (June 2002): 52.
 Keve, Paul W. Measuring Excellence: The History of Correctional Standards and Accreditation. Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association, 1996.
 The others sections outline this in detail.
 See the section: "Chaplain Equity Timeline" for documentation.
 CPE = Clinical Pastoral Education, as specified by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., Decatur, GA; one the most common standards for raining in chaplaincy skills.
 See TDCJ Volunteer Coordination Committee Reports for FY1999 and FY2000 and the larger picture in the first chapter on TDCJ Chaplaincy Cost-Savings, which are gargantuan.
 See Appendix 1: Bi-Monthly TDCJ Prog. & Services Reports to Board.
 Keve, Paul W. Measuring Excellence: The History of Correctional Standards and Accreditation. Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association, 1996: p. 3.
 Source: http://www.corrections.com/aca/pastpresentfuture/ethics.htm; formatting added to facilitate navigation.
 Source: http://www.corrections.com/aca/pastpresentfuture/principles.htm; formatting added to facilitate navigation.