New Mexico Training Academy Makes Accreditation History

Article excerpt

Exciting goals are always the best--they engender enthusiasm and motivate everyone involved.

In the fall of 1991, the staff of the New Mexico Corrections Academy in Santa Fe set such a goal for themselves--to be the first corrections academy in the nation to earn ACA accreditation.

We achieved our goal in January at the ACA Winter Conference in Miami. The accreditation award represents a milestone for New Mexico corrections, as well as for ACA and the corrections profession. It marks the first time accreditation has been awarded to a correctional organization whose primary mission is not to supervise offenders, but to serve corrections professionals.

It also is the first time an ACA manual of standards has focused entirely on the training and advancement of correctional staff. The standards were developed to address academies that not only have systemwide training responsibilities, but also have a physical plant--offices, classrooms, a dining facility, a physical training area and lodging. At least 33 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have residential training facilities to which the new standards may apply.

We pursued accreditation for three specific reasons: we needed a goal to which every employee could contribute; we needed something to get everyone pulling in the same direction; and we wanted to be one of the best. ACA accreditation and the accreditation process helped us meet each of these objectives.

No one can get excited about achieving a goal that only establishes mediocrity. That is why achieving ACA accreditation, which is based on standards of excellence, provides such a great motivational vehicle and mechanism to achieve excellence.

A training academy must be a model of professional excellence, and to be effective it also must be perceived as such. Accreditation fulfills both of these requirements.

Our accreditation represents tremendous progress for New Mexico corrections. The academy began in the basement of the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 1978 and often had to be located in surplus barracks, vacant cells and an abandoned garage. …