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Page Title: Standards and Accreditation

Overview of Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections

ACA Standards

The Accreditation Process
For More Information
Overview of Accreditation

Q What is accreditation?

A Accreditation is a system of verification that correctional agencies/facilities comply with national standards promulgated by the American Correctional Association. Accreditation is achieved through a series of reviews, evaluations, audits and hearings.

Q What kinds of facilities are eligible for accreditation?

A In order to be eligible for accreditation, a correctional agency must hold at least one of the following:
  • Pretrial or presentenced adult or juveniles;
  • Convicted adults or juveniles adjudicated delinquent; and/or
  • Adult or juvenile offenders sentenced to community supervision.

Q What are the main benefits of ACA accreditation?

A A recent survey of accredited facilities indicates that the advantages and benefits of accreditation are numerous and include (1) the assessment of a facility's strengths and weaknesses, (2) the identification of obtainable goals, (3) the implementation of state-of-the-art policies and procedures, (4) the establishment of specific guidelines for daily operations, (5) aid in the defense of frivolous lawsuits, (6) an increase of community support and (7) a higher level of staff professionalism and morale.

Q Why do correctional agencies seek accreditation?

A The three most frequently cited reasons are: 1) to ensure that the operation is in compliance with national standards, 2) to demonstrate to interested parties that the organization is operating at acceptable professional levels and 3) to comply with court orders.

Q What is the timeline for accreditation?

A The accreditation process usually takes up to 18 months. While individual accreditation awards last three years, the accreditation process is designed to be continuous.


Q TB Screening-PPD Supply Shortage

A According to the Centers for Disease Control, each agency/ jurisdiction needs to contact their state/local public health department and follow their lead for developing a contingency plan for screening TB.

For accreditation purposes the goal is to have in the accreditation file the following:

1. Documentation of notification of the shortages of PPD supplies;
2. Documentation that you contacted the state/local public health departments to develop a written contingency plan,
3. Your contingency plan.
4. Documentation that staff has been trained on contingency plan.

The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections

Q What is the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections?

A The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections is a private, nonprofit body that is comprised of corrections professionals from across the country. Its composition ensures that the Commission is completely independent and impartial. The main responsibility of this board is to conduct the accreditation hearings to verify that those agencies applying for accreditation comply with the applicable standards.

Q Who are members of the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections?

A The Commission is governed by a 28-member Board of Commissioners who are elected/appointed from the following categories:
  • National Association of Juvenile Correctional Agencies (1)
  • Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (1)
  • Association of State Correctional Administrators (2)
  • National Sheriffs' Association (2)
  • American Jail Association (1)
  • North American Association of Wardens and Superintendents (1)
  • International Community Corrections Association (1)
  • American Probation and Parole Association (1)
  • Association of Paroling Authorities International (1)
  • National Juvenile Detention Association (1)
  • American Bar Association (1)
  • National Association of Counties (1)
  • American Institute of Architects (1)
  • Correctional Health (physician) (1)
  • Juvenile Probation/Aftercare (1)
  • Adult Probation/Parole (1)
  • At-Large (9)
  • Citizen At-Large (Not in corrections) (1)

ACA Standards

Q What are ACA Standards?

A ACA standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional systems throughout the United States and are necessary to ensure that correctional facilities are operated professionally. They address services, programs and operations essential to good correctional management, including administrative and fiscal controls, staff training and development, physical plant, safety and emergency procedures, sanitation, food service, and rules and discipline. Standards reflect practical, up-to-date policies and procedures that safeguard the life, health and safety of staff and offenders.

Q Who sets ACA standards?

A A Standards Committee, required by ACA bylaws, continually revises the standards based on changing practices, current case law and agency experiences. Those standards approved by the committee reflect the views of corrections professionals, architects, doctors and legal experts.

Q Who are members of the ACA Standards Committee?

A The Standards Committee consists of 20 members. Twelve are designated by the ACA president, and eight are appointed by the chairman of the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections.

Q Who uses ACA standards?

A The application and implementation of standards have expanded beyond traditional community-based programs, adult and juvenile facilities, and parole and probation agencies. A recent review of requests for standards manuals indicated the most frequent users are correctional practitioners, facility designers and construction groups. Lawyers, judges, county administrators, academia and advocacy groups also use ACA standards as a tool to ensure the basic constitutional rights of the offender, while serving to protect staff and the public at large.

Q Are there different standards for different types of facilities?

A Yes. The Association currently publishes 21 different manuals of standards, each of which applies to a specific kind of correctional facility or program. The standards cover programs for adults and juveniles housed in correctional facilities, detention centers and community correctional programs. There are also standards for probation and parole agencies, health care programs and electronic monitoring programs.

Q How are the standards revised?

A The Standards Committee reviews proposals for revisions, deletions and additions to the standards twice a year in conjunction with the ACA conferences. Proposals are solicited and received from the field.

Q With how many standards must correctional facilities comply in order to receive accreditation?

A Standards are classified into two categories: mandatory and nonmandatory. To be awarded accreditation, applicants must comply with 100% of the applicable mandatory standards and at least 90% of applicable nonmandatory standards. However, the Commission evaluates the conditions of confinement/quality of life as well as standards compliance levels in making their decisions on awarding accreditation.

The Accreditation Process

Q How do I initiate a contract?

A Agency staff should contact the ACA to obtain the necessary materials to implement the accreditation process. Once this contact is made, the agency and Association staff work together to determine the applicable manual of standards and the appropriate fees. A contract is then executed. Accreditation staff may be reached at 1-800-ACA-JOIN, ext. 1835.

Q What happens after a facility signs the contract?

A ACA sends the facility the appropriate manual of standards and other materials. A regional manager is appointed to advise the facility during the accreditation process. The facility should begin its part of the process by appointing an accreditation manager.

Q What materials do I receive after the accreditation contract is executed?

A You will receive a copy of the appropriate standards manual and supplement, the Agency Manual of Accreditation Policy and Procedure, the standards compliance checklist for use in developing the files and a compliance tally.

Q What publications will assist me in this process?

A ACA has available a variety of publications and services to assist agencies in becoming familiar with the standards and their application through accreditation.

The Agency Manual of Accreditation Policy and Procedure is the comprehensive guide to becoming accredited. It offers step-by-step procedures for implementing the phrase of accreditation from application through awarding of accreditation, maintenance and reaccreditation.

The Standards Supplement provides all additions, deletions and revisions to the standards. Correctional Facility Design and Construction Management explores issues, problems and trends in correctional facility construction.

Guidelines for the Development of Policy and Procedure provides step-by-step instructions for translating standards into effective and practical procedures. It includes sample forms and policies for universal use. The guidelines are invaluable aids for agencies working toward accreditation and for those upgrading everyday operations. These guidelines are available for juvenile community residential services, juvenile training schools, adult community residential services, adult correctional institutions/adult local detention facilities, adult parole authorities/adult probation and parole field services, and security programs.

Q What if I need help during this process?

A Contact your regional manager for standards interpretations, procedural issues or self-evaluation, and file preparation questions. If you feel on-site assistance is required, your regional manager will discuss options with you.

Q What kind of person should serve as an accreditation manager?

A The accreditation manager should be an organized team leader with solid operations experience and excellent task-delegation skills. He/she should have good access to the facility administrator and, for larger facilities, should be able to devote all of his/her time to the process.

Q When do I schedule my audit?

A You need to contact your regional manager six to eight weeks in advance of your proposed audit date.

Q What activities occur following the scheduling of the audit date?

A ACA staff will select a visiting committee to conduct the audit. Travel arrangements will be made by the individual auditors; however, it is your responsibility to provide transportation for the team between the airport and the hotel and the facility. It is also the accreditation manager's responsibility to secure lodging reservations for the team.

Q What is the Self-Evaluation Report?

A The Association requires that a Self-Evaluation Report be completed by each applicant for accreditation or reaccreditation. Agencies must submit a written statement to the Association concerning their status of compliance. Information contained in this report includes the percentage of compliance with mandatory and nonmandatory standards; a list of not applicable standards and reasons for such; and a list of noncompliance standards and their deficiencies. The Self-Evaluation Report is due to ACA prior to the scheduling of the audit.

Q Who are the auditors?

A ACA auditors are corrections professionals who are selected and trained by ACA. The average auditor has worked in the field of corrections for over 18 years and has experience operating and evaluating the type of facility being audited.

Q What happens after the audit?

A After completing the audit, the audit team will report its findings to ACA and the CAC. If the applicant has achieved necessary compliance levels, ACA will schedule an accreditation hearing. If the facility lacks necessary compliance and all other criteria have been met, it must rectify the situation before accreditation can be evaluated.

Q What are the factors that the CAC considers in the decision to award or deny accreditation?

A Accreditation decisions are based upon the totality of the conditions of an agency/facility. This includes levels of standards compliance, the quality of life and conditions of confinement and a review of significant incidents.

Q What happens after a facility becomes accredited?

A The facility is presented an accreditation certificate and is publicly recognized for its outstanding efforts. This achievement is a considerable honor among correctional facilities. Accreditation, however, is an ongoing process. Accredited agencies are required to submit annual certification reports to certify that they continue to comply with ACA standards.

Q What is the annual certification statement?

A During the three-year accreditation period, the agency submits an annual certification statement that is due on the anniversary of the accreditation date. It contains the following information: current standards compliance levels, update of plans of action, significant events to include a change in the agency administration and/or major staffing changes; mission change or program revisions; changes in the offender population, including number of offenders or general offender profile; physical plant renovations, additions or closings; or any major disturbances such as extended periods of lock-down, employee work stoppages, etc. ACA staff reviews the annual certification statement received from the agency and responds to clarify issues or request additional information.

Q What is reaccreditation?

A For the most part, reaccreditation is a continuation of initial accreditation. It occurs every three years. Since standards are being revised constantly, it may involve compliance with some new or updated standards. The process does include a standards compliance audit and another accreditation hearing.

Q What are the contract procedures for reaccreditation?

A A contract will be generated automatically by ACA and sent to you approximately nine months prior to the expiration of your current award.

For More Information

Q What if I have further questions?

A Please feel free to contact our office at the following address:

American Correctional Association
Standards and Accreditation Department
206 N. Washington Street., Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (800) 222-5646

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