By Waters, Kathy
Corrections Today , Vol. 61, No. 4
ACA accreditation is a mark of excellence that can be marketed to the public, legislative bodies and the rest of the criminal justice arena. Also, having a common set of standards helps us evaluate our performance and make comparisons to other units, counties or states.
Probation, parole and community corrections agencies are striving to be recognized as some of the most vital and effective sentencing options the courts and parole boards can use. The fact that the majority of offenders across the nation are under supervision in the community makes it even more vital that uniformity of standards be accepted and our role as criminal justice practitioners be recognized. This serves as a mark of achievement that enhances the credibility, as well as the viability of the purpose of probation and parole and community corrections. In order to achieve this, all staff must be recognized as professionals for the duties and services they perform.
As professionals, we also must be accountable. Therefore, we need to earn the confidence and respect of the citizens, the judiciary and other criminal justice entities, as well as our governing bodies. Before being legitimately recognized as professionals outside of our agencies, we must first achieve professionalism within our agencies. Attaining accreditation by a nationally recognized organization such as the American Correctional Association (ACA) helps us function and view ourselves as professionals. This, in turn, enables us to conduct ourselves professionally, which results in recognition as professionals by those outside the organization.
Standards of achievement must be set by an individual or organization in order to reach a goal. If low standards are set, usually the outcomes will reflect low achievement. However, if the highest standards are set - standards that are a challenge to meet - the achievement and goal ultimately is to reach the very top of those high standards.
ACA accreditation is even more meaningful because the standards are those of a nationally recognized organization - Standards that are accepted, reviewed and revised by professionals from across the country. Meeting the standards of an outside organization is more significant than an internal review by one's own organization because the review is unbiased and objective.
Politics and leadership can influence a state probation philosophy. However, those states accredited by ACA have a strong common denominator. …