ACA IS NOT WHAT YOU OR I THINK IT IS.
Standards and Accreditation
The Standards and Accreditation Department is dedicated to the field of corrections. The standards created and refined by the American Correctional Association represent fundamental correctional practices that ensure staff and inmate safety and security; enhance staff morale; improve record maintenance and data management capabilities; assist in protecting the agency against litigation; and improve the function of the facility or agency at all levels. The department’s roles include development and monitoring of the ACA standards, facilitation of the ACA accreditation process (formalized by the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections), and creating training and community resources to help facilities, auditors, and administrators access and implement leading correctional practices within their agency.
Today, ACA publishes 22 different manuals of standards for all areas of correctional operation, including adult, juvenile, and community corrections as well as correctional training academies, industry programs, and central administration offices. Department staff supports the Committee on Standards in creating and refining the ACA standards to represent leading correctional policies, procedures, and practices across all areas of operation. Proposals for revision to the existing standards are solicited from the field prior to each ACA conference. All revisions must be approved by majority vote of the Standards Committee before publishing. The results of each conference’s Standards Committee meeting are posted online via the Standards Committee Meeting Minutes, as well as bi-annually via the Standards Supplement. A detailed description of each of ACA’s standards manuals can be found in the Standards section.
ACA accreditation is intended to improve facility operations through adherence to clear standards relevant to all areas/operations of the facility, including safety, security, order, inmate care, programs, justice, and administration. The Standards and Accreditation department’s staff facilitates the accreditation process from initial contact through assessment, contracting, preparation, the accreditation audit, and lastly the appearance before the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections for a final accreditation decision. ACA Standards Specialists work directly with facility or agency management to introduce them to the accreditation process, provide necessary documentation, assign and train auditors to each facility, and discuss with facilities the specific requirements of each standard. More information on the accreditation process can be found in the Seeking Accreditation section.
Meet the Director of Standards and Accreditation
Kathy Black-Dennis is the Director of Standards and Accreditation for the American Correctional Association. She has also served as ACA’s Director of Professional Development. Kathy has over 35 years of experience in adult and juvenile corrections. Kathy retired from the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice as the Director of Program Services.
While with the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Kathy worked as a correctional officer, classification and treatment officer, unit director and the Branch Manager for Planning and Evaluation, where she oversaw legislative affairs, IT, grants and research. Kathy was on faculty at the University of Louisville prior to joining ACA. She has also taught at Eastern Kentucky University and served as a programs specialist with the National Institute of Corrections Information Center. Kathy has conducted leadership and management training for over 25 years on a national and international level.
Kathy received her B.S. in Law Enforcement and Social Work from Eastern Kentucky University and an M.S. in Corrections Administration from Xavier University. She has completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville in Occupational Training, Leadership, and Human Resource Development.