Declaration of Principles | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

The Declaration of Principles is the guiding principles of the National Prison Association (now the ACA), which was adopted in 1870; considered a milestone in the professionalization of corrections.

The National Prison Association (NPA), now known as the American Correctional Association (ACA), is a professional organization for individuals and groups involved in the field of corrections. The NPA was founded in 1870, during a time when correctional institutions were in dire need of reform. The organization sought to establish a set of guiding principles for the field, which would help to professionalize corrections and improve the conditions of confinement for inmates.

To achieve these goals, the NPA developed a set of principles known as the Declaration of Principles, which was adopted in 1870. This document is considered a milestone in the history of corrections, as it provided a framework for the development of more humane and effective correctional practices. The Declaration of Principles consisted of 36 statements, which covered a wide range of issues related to corrections, including the treatment of inmates, the role of correctional staff, and the goals of the correctional system.

One of the key principles of the Declaration was the idea that prisons should be focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment. This was a radical departure from the prevailing attitude of the time, which held that prisons were primarily designed to punish and deter criminals. The Declaration recognized that the vast majority of inmates would eventually be released back into society and that it was, therefore, important to provide them with the education and skills they needed to succeed outside of prison. This principle was a precursor to modern approaches to corrections, such as the rehabilitative model and the restorative justice movement.

Another important principle of the Declaration was the idea that prisons should be run by trained professionals rather than political appointees or unskilled laborers. The Declaration recognized that the effective operation of a prison required specialized knowledge and skills and that these could only be acquired through professional training and education. This principle laid the groundwork for the professionalization of corrections, which has been a key trend in the field over the past century.

The Declaration of Principles also emphasized the importance of treating inmates with respect and dignity. This included providing them with adequate food, clothing, and medical care, as well as protecting them from abuse and mistreatment. These principles have since been enshrined in a number of international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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Last Modified: 04/21/2023


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