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.
HUMANITY: The dignity of individuals, the rights of all people and the potential for human growth and development must be respected.
Social order in a democratic society depends upon full recognition of individual worth and respect for the dignity of all its members; therefore, laws, administrative policies and corrections practices must be governed by this principle and measured against standards of fairness and decency, whether applied to those under corrections care and control, its staff, crime victims, or the general public.
Corrections shares with other parts of the criminal justice system the obligation to balance the protection of the individual against excessive restrictions. To this end the least restrictive means of control and supervision consistent with public safety should be used. Incarceration should only be used with juveniles or adults charged with or convicted of crimes and for whom no other alternative disposition is safe and appropriate.
Corrections leadership must establish a management philosophy and ensure implementation by monitoring conformance; encouraging a positive environment; promoting positive relationships between and among offenders and staff; and providing opportunities for programming and resources for employees and offenders.
JUSTICE: Corrections must demonstrate integrity, respect, dignity, fairness, and pursue a balanced program of humaneness, restoration, rehabilitation and the most appropriate sanctions consistent with public safety.
Unwarranted disparity in sentencing, undue length of sentences, and rigid sentencing structures are an injustice to society and the offender and create circumstances that are not in the best interest of justice, mercy, or public protection and must be resisted whenever possible.
Sanctions imposed for crimes or infractions should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offense; take into account the extent of participation in the crime or infraction and the criminal history of the offender; and follow impartial fact-finding and due process procedures.
Corrections leadership also must ensure that employees are treated with rigorous standards of fairness and justice; and that victims, witnesses, and all other citizens who come in contact with the criminal justice system receive fair, consistent, and concerned consideration and assistance, including restitution and/or compensation whenever appropriate.
PROTECTION: Corrections has a duty to ensure the protection of the public, offenders under corrections supervision, corrections workers, and victims and survivors of crime.
People have the right to be protected from personal and/or psychological harm, loss of property and abuse of power. The overall protection of society is best enhanced through effective corrections community and institutional supervision, rehabilitation and training programs, compliance with legal mandates, offender and staff accountability, and meeting the basic needs of offenders.
Corrections has a special responsibility to protect from harm those who are involuntarily under its care and control; therefore, contemporary standards for health care, offender classification, due process, fire and building safety, nutrition, personal well-being, and clothing and shelter must be observed.
Because of the unique power that corrections has over those in its care, special vigilance must be observed to protect them from the abuse of that power. Offenders also must be protected from harming each other, corrections employees, victims of crime, and/or the public at large. Prevention of escape, assault, and property loss is an important goal of corrections and requires unique and specialized expertise.
OPPORTUNITY: Corrections is responsible for providing programs and constructive activities that promote positive change for responsible citizenship.
Opportunity for positive change or "reformation" is basic to the concept of corrections because punishment without the opportunity for redemption is unjust and ineffective. Hope is a prerequisite for the offender's restoration to responsible membership in society.
Sound corrections programs at all levels of government require a careful balance of community and institutional services that provide a range of effective, humane, and safe options for handling juvenile and adult offenders.
Corrections must provide classification systems for determining placement, degree of supervision, and programming that afford differential controls and services for juvenile and adult offenders, thus maximizing opportunity for the largest number.
Corrections leaders should actively engage the community to assist in the restoration and reintegration of the offender.
Offenders, juvenile or adult, whether in the community or in institutions, should be afforded the opportunity to engage in productive work, participate in programs including education, vocational training, religion, counseling, constructive use of leisure time, and other activities that enhance self-worth, community integration, and economic status.
KNOWLEDGE: Corrections must be committed to pursuing a continual search for new knowledge, technological advances, and effective practices that strive toward excellence and positive change.
Effective programs, policies, and practices are based on accurate information, applied and theoretical research, and are guided by professional standards and outcome measures of performance.
Corrections programming successes that are supported by sound research enhance the credibility of corrections and promote professional progress.
For optimum benefit, knowledge must be shared to enhance public awareness and support for effective policies and programs.
Corrections should contribute to and benefit from relationships among local, state, national, and international agencies, professional associations, and institutions of higher learning.
COMPETENCE: Corrections administrators, supervisors, and line employees must be professionally competent and committed to conducting their responsibilities in accordance with professional standards.
Selection, retention and promotion of all corrections staff and the selection and training of volunteers must be based on merit, without regard to political affiliation, race, gender or religion.
Staff, contract employees and volunteers must be well trained to understand the mission of the agency and to conduct themselves according to the agency's rules and professional standards.
Adequately trained and well-supervised volunteers are an essential element to the effective delivery of services to juvenile and adult offenders at all stages of the corrections process.
Remuneration for staff must adequately reflect the importance of the crucial role of corrections in the protection of society and should be commensurate with job requirements and performance.
Corrections agencies and organizations must promote opportunities for professional development for all employees.
The system of evaluating staff and volunteers must be fair and equitable.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Corrections officials shall ensure accountability in regard to the treatment and management of offenders, selection and performance of staff, and the interface with the community and victims.
Accountability is a keystone of sound corrections practice; therefore, all those engaged in corrections activity should be held responsible for their actions and behavior.
Corrections administrators must be accountable for assuring the humane treatment of offenders, the support and empowerment of staff and adherence to the stated principles.
Staff must be accountable for advancing and implementing the goals and principles of corrections.
Offenders must be accountable for their actions, including making amends and restitution where practical.
[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.]
1870 DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES