Must Read Report on The American Correctional Association: Betraying the Promise of Accreditation: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
Date:  08-01-2016

Prison Legal News finds flaws, misconduct, and outright questionable practices regarding ACA accreditation
From the July 2016 issue of Prison Legal News:

Widespread disdain for people held in prisons and jails, public apathy for humane conditions in detention facilities, tough-on-crime political rhetoric and the privatization of correctional services by for-profit companies have taken a collective toll on the quality of our nation’s criminal justice system. Outwardly, organizations like the American Correctional Association (ACA) and National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) champion high standards for conditions of confinement and medical treatment for prisoners, respectively, and provide accreditation to facilities that meet those standards. Often, however, accreditation supplies little more than a thin veneer of respectability that glosses over constitutional violations and other abuses.

Read the ACA’s promotional materials and you will be convinced it is committed to policies and practices vital to ensuring the safe and humane operation of prisons, jails and other detention facilities. Yet study how the ACA actually operates and you’ll quickly see that in terms of purpose and effectiveness the entire accreditation process is a sham; the ACA lacks the power to affect, impose or enforce meaningful change in our nation’s corrections system. Both the ACA and NCCHC are also plagued by conflicts of interest, including the fact that they effectively sell accreditation to their correctional colleagues and promulgate their own voluntary standards with no oversight.

The ACA, self-described as the oldest and largest correctional association in the world, was founded in 1870. During its lengthy existence it has failed to make any meaningful inroads to assure the constitutional treatment of prisoners in the United States; rather, such efforts have mostly been achieved through hard-fought civil rights litigation opposed by corrections officials. In 2013, a federal court noted that ACA standards “... do not set the constitutional minimum for prison conditions.” See: Lemire v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr & Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062 (9th Cir. 2013). And in a 2014 ruling, the Ninth Circuit stated it was “unable to determine ... the significance of the ‘accreditation’ by the ACA” in a case involving a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment claim. See:Grenning v. Miller-Stout, 739 F.3d 1235 (9th Cir. 2014). [PLN, Oct. 2014, p.18].

If the ACA and NCCHC, both non-profit organizations, are the self-appointed guardians watching over conditions in prisons and jails and establishing correctional standards, that begs the question: Who is watching over them? Read More