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 and 1982. These Declaration of Principles were approved by the American Correctional Association Delegate Assembly at the Winter Conference in San Antonio, Jan.16, 2002.


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

PREAMBLE


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.

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