The History of the American Correctional Association

For more than 152 years, the American Correctional Association has championed the cause of corrections and correctional effectiveness. Founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, ACA is the oldest association developed specifically for practitioners in the correctional profession. During the first organizational meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, the assembly elected then-Ohio Governor and future President Rutherford B. Hayes as the first President of the Association. 

The Declaration of Principles developed at the first meeting in 1870 became the guidelines for corrections in the United States and Europe. At the ACA centennial meeting in 1970, a revised set of Principles, reflecting advances in theory and practice, was adopted by the Association. The principles were updated in 1982 and lastly in 2002.

At the 1954 Congress of Correction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the name of the American Prison Association was changed to the American Correctional Association, reflecting the expanding philosophy of corrections and its increasingly important role within the community and society as a whole. 

Today, the ACA has thousands of members from all over the world.

Vision Statement

The American Correctional Association shapes the future of corrections through strong, progressive leadership that brings together various voices and forges coalitions and partnerships to promote the concepts embodied in its Declaration of Principles.


The American Correctional Association provides a professional organization for all individuals and groups, both public and private that share a common goal of improving the justice system. 


I.  Membership - Expand and serve membership. Develop recruitment and retention strategies. Identify benefits and services that will increase and serve the membership of the American 
Correctional Association. 

II.  Diversity - Promote diversity in the leadership, staff, membership and activities of the American Correctional Association. Encourage diversity of staff in the justice system. 

III.  Professional Development - Provide excellence in professional development and educational opportunities. Create and provide meaningful opportunities for those who cannot participate in professional development through traditional venues. 

IV.  Standards and Accreditation - Ensure the integrity of the standards and accreditation process. Develop standards that are based on valid, reliable research and exemplary correctional practice. Promote the accreditation process. 
V.  Research and Education - Build relationships with the educational community. Influence research agendas and the implementation of valid research findings within correctional agencies. Ensure that pertinent research is recognized, shared, and widely distributed. Promote continuing education and the expansion of degree programs relevant to corrections. 
VI.  Public Perception of Corrections – Lead and serve as the voice for corrections. Promote sound public policy and enhance positive public perception of the corrections field. Promote the American Correctional Associations policies, position statements, standards, and resolutions. 
VII.  International Relations - Develop relationships and promote opportunities in which the American Correctional Association can contribute to and benefit from active involvement within the international justice community. 
VIII.  Ethics - Promote ethics within the justice profession. Demonstrate in all endeavors socially responsible, humane correctional policies and practices. Promote awareness of and adherence to the Code of Ethics of the American Correctional Association. 

Click here for a printable version of the ACA Vision Statement, Mission, and Goals
(Approved by the American Correctional Association’s Delegate Assembly at the 132nd Congress of Correction in Anaheim, California, August 7 , 2002.)