With the challenges we face within our profession and the challenges our nation faces, we remind our members and those who may read this of ACA's founding principles, first adopted in 1870 and recently revised and approved in 2019. Those principles incorporate humanity, justice, protection, opportunity, knowledge, competence and accountability. We urge you to read ACA's "Declaration of Principles" listed herein. — Lannette Linthicum, M.D., President (2017-2019); and James A. Gondles Jr., Executive Director

Declaration of Principles

The initial Declaration of Principles of the American Correctional Association were developed in 1870 at the first meeting of the American Prison Association (which in 1954 became the American Correctional Association). Successive generations of corrections practitioners revised the principles in 1930, 1960, 1970, 1982 and 2002. These Declaration of Principles were reviewed and updated by the ACA Past Presidents during a November 2018 meeting and approved by the American Correctional Association Delegate Assembly at the Winter Conference in New Orleans, January 15, 2019.

Click here for a PDF of the original 1870 Declaration of Principles.

PREAMBLE


In 1870, leaders in American and international corrections, met in Cincinnati, Ohio and 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, representing all facets of corrections. The foresight of these leaders’ thinking over a century and a half ago is evident in this brief excerpt from the series of propositions that formed the basis for the Declaration of Principles adopted by the 1870 Congress:

“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 lifted 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 bread1.”

Although this language may be antiquated, the message is contemporary. The role of corrections is to enhance public safety by assisting in the prevention and reduction of delinquency and crime. Ultimately, the prevention of criminal and delinquent behavior depends on the individual as well as constructive elements in our communities: family, education, faith, health and government.

As members of the American Correctional Association, we continue in the spirit of our founders by ensuring that these principles continue to guide sound corrections practices, make our philosophy and aims clear, and inspire cooperation and support from leaders of local, state, national and international communities and organizations.

We believe that the principles of HUMANITY, JUSTICE, PROTECTION, OPPORTUNITY, KNOWLEDGE, COMPETENCE and ACCOUNTABILITY are essential to the foundation of sound corrections policy and public protection.

Guided by these principles, the American Correctional Association benefits from the heritage of the past, while planning and preparing for the future.

Endnotes
1 National Prison Association of the United States (2018). Proceedings [for the Years]. (pp. 174, 176). Hardpress. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=amgUAQAAMAAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PP2.

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