Congressional Action Leads to Better ACA Standards






Publication: Corrections Today
Author: Rogers, Jeff
Date published: February 1, 2012

In 1988, the U.S. Congress asked the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to study conditions of confinement for juvenile offenders, assess whether the conditions conform to national standards and recommend improvements. At the time, the second edition of the Juvenile Training School Standards Manual published by the American Correctional Association was used by corrections professionals throughout the country.

ABT Associates was awarded the contract to study the conditions of confinement. The study involved a survey mailed to 984 public and private detention centers, reception centers, training schools and juvenile ranches. Additionally, 95 juvenile facilities were visited by juvenile corrections professionals in two-day reviews of these facilities. The twoday visits focused on living space, medical services, food, clothing and hygiene, security, suicide prevention, inspections and emergency preparedness, education, recreation, mental health services, access to the community and limits on staff discretion.

The results of the Condition of Confinement study were published in 1993 by ABT Associates, led by Senior Associate Dale Parent. By this time, ACA had just published its third edition of the Juvenile Training School Standards Manual. The third edition was considered by practitioners to be a great improvement over the second edition, and hailed as an innovation in juvenile corrections accreditation. In comparison with the previous edition, the new edition was much better organized, contained a new standard numbering component and adopted more stringent standards.

One conclusion of the 1993 study was that procedural standards often have no discernible effect on conditions within juvenile facilities. In conjunction with this statement, the report recommended that organizations such as ACA revise their standards to incorporate goals that facilities strive to obtain against which their performance can be measured.1 This was somewhat frustrating to accreditation managers who were already using the newly published ACA standards manual. However, the results could not be argued with. With this in mind, Matt Novak, thenpresident of the Correctional Accreditation Manager's Association (CAMA), Jeff Rogers, president-elect of CAMA and Dale Parent joined forces to conduct a workshop on performance-based standards and outcome measures. The workshop was held at the 1993 ACA Congress of Correction in Nashville, Tenn. With so many interested professionals joining in on this workshop, it was obvious there was a need to develop performance-based standards and outcome measures. But where to begin?

After this workshop, juvenile practitioners discussed the new performance-based standards concept for several years. The major question surrounding this concept was how to develop baseline information. Juvenile facilities have many different types of programming, physical plants and management styles. How can one compare apples and oranges?

After 10 years and much debate, ACA appointed Bonnie Sweeney and Parkes Casselbury as co-chairs of a committee composed of juvenile corrections professionals from around the U.S. to develop a new performance-based standards manual. Fortunately for this committee, the ACA Adult Community Residential Facility Standards Manual, Fourth Edition had adopted new performance-based standards in 2001, so the committee had something to assist in guiding the process. The process was tedious, but with the assistance of ACA Executive Director James A. Gondles Jr., then ACA President Gary Maynard, ACA Past-Presidents Chuck Kehoe, Gwendolyn C. Chunn and others, a new fourth edition of Performance-Based Standards for Juvenile Correctional Facilities was released in January 2008.

The new manual contained fewer expected practices. More expected practices were updated into bulleted multirequirement expected practices. The best feature of the new manual was its role as a management tool. Administrators could now use the various outcome measures to analyze and assess their facility/ agency performance during a 12month period. In subsequent years, these measurements can be compared and used to indicate trends, both good and bad, and provide valuable information for developing strategic plans, goals and objectives, and budgeting processes. Another positive aspect was that procedural practices could also be reviewed and verified.

There are those in juvenile corrections who will still find fault with the fourth edition manual. One of the faults mentioned by some is that rated capacity standards are not mandatory. In a perfect world, that would be a great fault to correct. However, with budgetary issues and a lack of public support for this concept, one must still live with the reality of the profession. Not all states have overcrowded facilities, but many still do. Adding outcome measures to the equation advances the profession's desire to improve the condition of confinement for juveniles. Measuring what corrections professionals do and using that information to plan for the future will only make the profession better and provide a better environment for treatment to occur.

In an article in the March 2011 issue of USA Today, a point was made for closing secure state juvenile facilities in New York and California in favor of using community-based programming and facilities, thus putting the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders in communities and counties without the resources available to state operated facilities.2 While there is an argument to be made in favor of this concept, it fails to understand the nature of smaller counties and communities affording to make programs available for juvenile offenders or others with very special needs.

The new fourth edition Performance-Based Standards for Juvenile Correctional Facilities is even more important now with the reality of states closing larger secure facilities. The states that continue to use these types of facilities must prove that through more stringent expected practices and outcome measures, accredited facilities can operate safely and securely.

Indeed, the 1988 mandate by Congress has made an important impact in the juvenile corrections profession. Its recommendations made ACA's fourth edition of the Performance-Based Standards for Juvenile Correctional Facilities a reality. Could this have happened without the Congressional mandate? Maybe, but it certainly helped make the process happen sooner rather than later.

ENDNOTES

1 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Spring/Summer 1993. Conditions of confinement-inside America's juvenile institutions, 1(1). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

2 Moore, M., March 16, 201 1. States making juvenile detention more localized. USA Today.

Author affiliation:

Jeff Rogers is president of the Correctional Accreditation Manager's Association. He is currently employed by Eastern Kentucky University as a corrections consultant and has been an ACA auditor since 1990.

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