On August 1, 2016 Reentry Central posted a disturbing report from Prison Legal News on the practices of the American Correctional Association (ACA). The following press release announces a demonstration against the ACA to be held August 7, and explains the reasons behind it.(Full disclosure: Reentry Central’s Managing Editor, Beatrice Codianni, was interviewed by a member of the coalition and asked to describe her experience with the ACA while she was incarcerated. Some of her answers appear in the press release.)
Friday, August 5, 2016
Khari Charles Black and Pink
BOSTON—A coalition of Boston-based justice organizations denounces the American Correctional Association (ACA) and will protest the group’s annual conference, to be held August 5-10 at Hynes Convention Center. The ACA, which a federal appeals court Judge David L. Bazelon has called a “propaganda vehicle for corrections authorities,” promotes prison profiteering and rubber stamps torture, slavery, racism, rape, child abuse, and medical neglect in the prisons it accredits.
On Sunday, August 7 at 3pm, the coalition and its supporters will hold a demonstration called “Imagine a World Without Prisons” to protest the ACA Board of Governor’s meeting. The ACA’s vision is to “shape the future of corrections,” but after 147 years as the face of reform, the ACA continues to perpetuate the worst kind of dehumanization from our past. We invite our community to stand with us and shape our own future—a future without prisons.
Organizations led by currently and formerly incarcerated people and communities of color overrepresented in prisons call on Bostonians, Bay Staters, and people across the United States to condemn the ACA and envision a world without prisons. While the ACA describes claims a “legacy of care” and touts a commitment to improving the justice system, the organization actually puts a veneer of credibility and professionalism on rampant human rights abuses in prisons across the United States. Our coalition includes Black and Pink, The City School, Families for Justice as Healing, and the Young Abolitionists. These organizations support currently and formerly incarcerated people, challenge policies in order to dismantle the prison industrial complex, and create transformative justice alternatives to the United States’ dependence on criminal punishment system. Prison is an American sickness. We are working to remake the world without prisons.
The ACA silences prisoner grievances and sweeps horrific abuses under the rug. During a deposition for a California Class Action lawsuit Plata v. Brown, the ACA Director of Standards, Accreditation and Professional Development from 2006-2014 admitted that ACA auditors were not required to include prisoner complaints in their evaluations of prisons, and could accredit prisons even if courts held that their conditions were unconstitutional. “I spent 15 years in the Federal Corrections Institution and Camp at Danbury,” Beatrice Codianni said. “Whenever the ACA was coming the staff would go into ‘lipstick on a pig’ mode. “We were told that we could not talk to the inspectors. I wrote to the ACA about my concerns: worms in the showers, exposed fiberglass over bunks, mold, the medical site at the camp wasn't handicap accessible, and the inside entrance to the visiting room wasn't handicap accessible. The medical care was substandard. I never heard back. Other women who wrote to the ACA never received a response either. I want the public to know that the inspections are a farce.” The ACA accredited FCI Danbury.
ACA Accreditation Rubber Stamps Human Rights Abuses
The following abuses have been documented at these ACA accredited jails and prisons, among many more:
Chicopee Women's Jail in Massachusetts: Women incarcerated there recently won a lawsuit against the prison because prison staff was video taping their strip searches.
Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts: Multiple prisoners committed suicide and staff murdered a prisoner while forcing him into restraints.
Many Georgia DOC prisons: The entire Georgia DOC is under DOJ investigation for sexual abuse of LGBT prisoners.
The Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, run by Geo Group, a private prison corporation: The US Department of Justice found “systemic, egregious practices” at the prison, including “brazen” sexual misconduct involving juvenile offenders that was “among the worst that we've seen in any facility in the nation.”
In the Walnut Grove case, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote the facility had “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”Yet one year later, while still in the process of complying with the settlement agreement, Walnut Grove scored a 100% on another ACA accreditation audit.
The ACA and Prison Profiteering
Former ACA President Christopher Epps was convicted of accepting bribes from consultants for Geo Group and Global Tel*Link, major prison profiteers, to establish contracts in Mississippi. While he was indicted and convicted, he wasn’t just one bad apple.
The ACA itself is a business, making money for officials by selling its accreditation to jails and prisons. As of 2014, ACA accreditation fees ranged from $8,100-$19,500, a financial burden borne by taxpayers. The ACA receives these public tax dollars and then uses them to rubber stamp abuses in prisons and jails, causing double harm to the general public.
ACA accreditation lasts for three years, meaning the organization can continue paying auditors—mostly prison and jail employees—to evaluate facilities. Last year, ACA paid out over $2 million to these auditors.
In 2014, the ACA received $4.6 million in taxpayer dollars to facilitate its bogus accreditations.
For more information, see American Corrections.