4 Apr 2022


The American Correctional Association (ACA)

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American Correctional Association (ACA), which was erstwhile referred to as the National Prison Association until 1954 is an international correctional association that accredits over 900 prisons, jails, halfway houses, and other correctional facilities (approximately 80%) in the US using standards manuals that they have independently published (Bogard, 2010). It is an already established fact that the US is one of the nations with the highest prevalence of incarceration in the world with over two million people currently either in jail or prison. Further, that the prison system is in dire need of reform and indeed overhaul is also an established fact (Muraskin, 2010). This paper however seeks to establish the factors influencing the standards and accreditation of US prisons and the reasons behind America’s poor correctional facilities despite fervent facilitation.


The ACA is a private non-profit making organization whose membership comprises mostly of former as well as current correctional officials. Its main obligation is to provide accreditation to jails, prisons and kindred facilities. The ACA consistently conducts hearings, audits, evaluations and reviews to ensure that their accredited facilities consistently maintain the standards and criterion specifically outlined in the ACA standard manuals. Albeit the standards may vary depending on the nature of the institution and its security levels, the standard set by the ACA must be met to the satisfaction of the ACA with its par set to a high minimum of 90% compliance (Bogard, 2010). Therefore, the failure of the prisons systems under ACA is an indirect failure of the ACA as it is in charge of the standards used by the federal and state authorities that run the prisons and related facilities begging the question, why such a high failure rate?

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The Financial aspect

The ACA charges approximately $8,100 to $19,500 for an accreditation depending on the nature and scope of the work to be undertaken, the number of auditors involved and the number of days these auditors will require to establish if the threshold for accreditation has been reached. With the standards of testing being solely set by the ACA without any government superintendence, it is easy to see how charges will be negotiated between the facility and the ACA. This is done by reducing the number of auditors and their duration and therefore toning down the nature and number of tests (Bogard, 2010). Upon initial accreditation, further reviews may take as long as 3 years to be undertaken and this obviously creates loopholes in the system.

The lack of ACAs accountability for the conduct of its members  

If a bank issues a guarantee to a client, and the client is determined to be fraudulent, the bank is held liable for the loss. This, however, is not the case for the ACA as courts have established through case law that its accreditation does not hold water as a defense in a court of law (Muraskin, 2010). This means that the said accreditation is not a certification that the standards so expressed have been adhered to. In Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 543 n.27 (1979), the Supreme Court ruled that accreditation does not establish constitutionality of the facility (Bogard, 2010). Furthermore, in Grenning v. Miller-Stout, 739 F.3d 1235, 1241 (9th Cir. 2014), the Ninth Circuit Court indicated that the fact that a facility is accredited does not mean it is compliant (Bogard, 2010). These contentions put the ACA off the hook from the conduct of its members thus making the accreditation merely a ceremonial process.

The Overwhelmed nature of the facilities

Fifty years ago, there was a total of about 300,000 people incarcerated in the US, and 20 years later, that number had only grown to about 500,000 inmates. However, in 2008 that number had augmented to almost 2.3 million inmates. This was unexpected, unanticipated, and unpredictable increase that congested and overwhelmed the facilities (Bogard, 2010). The ACA standards, just as the facilities they supervise have not been able to keep up with the inmate boom leading to many of their standards being archaic. The overwhelmed nature of the facilities will trigger a definite reluctance by the ACA to condemn facilities seeing that they are trying their best under impossible circumstance thus watering down their standards (Muraskin, 2010).

The Staff Accreditation

According to the ACA, through the CCP, the correctional officer will study without any supervision then undertake a four hour proctored exam and upon passing the examination, he/she is certified (Bogard, 2010). There is a need to train correctional staff on issues of hygiene in order to improve the health of inmates and stop spread of communicable diseases. A relevant example is the Pleasant Valley Prison case facing former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (Staff, 2015). 


A lot must be done to change the sorry state of the correctional centers in the US but the nature and form of accreditation as currently done by the ACA must also be changed for actual change to be effected prior to the overhaul expected to reform the correctional systems. There needs to be a form of superintendence for the activities of the ACA from an independent facility so as to ensure that good standards are set and the set standards are adhered to. However, as the situation now stands, there is little difference between the accredited and no accredited correctional institutions, a fact that is admitted, even by the courts of law, which commit inmates to the correctional institutions.


Bogard, D. (2010). Effective Corrections Oversight: What Can We Learn from ACA Standard and Accreditation? 30 Pace L. Rev. 1646. Retrieved from <http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/plr/vol30/iss5/17/>

Muraskin, R. (2010). Key Correctional Issues (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

Staff (2015). Ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- sued by prison inmates -- you poisoned us with valley fever. Retrieved from <http://www.tmz.com/2014/03/07/ governor-arnold-schwarzenegger-prison-inmates-lawsuit-valley-fever/> 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). The American Correctional Association (ACA).


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