June 10, 2020

Warren, Gallego Question DoD's Reliance on Prison Industry Trade Association for Accreditation of Military Detention Facilities

American Correctional Association Has a History of Failure as Accreditor, Including Massive Conflicts of Interest and Rubber-Stamp Accreditation Process

Warren Opened Investigation of Private Detention Accreditation System After Reports of Substandard Conditions and Safety Concerns in Facilities Nationwide

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, wrote to the Department of Defense (DoD) requesting information about DoD's reliance on the American Correctional Association (ACA), a prison industry trade association, for accreditation of military confinement and corrections facilities. The senators' letter follows an investigation opened by Senator Warren last year into the private prison accreditation industry following widespread reports of mismanagement and poor conditions for detainees in facilities nationwide.

"The importance of maintaining military facilities, especially military confinement and corrections facilities, that meet basic health and safety standards cannot be overstated, and we are pleased that the Department takes this issue seriously enough to seek accreditation for its facilities," the lawmakers wrote in their letter. "Unfortunately, however, it is not clear that the ACA treats its duties as accreditor with the same respect and care."

The ACA, which touts itself as the "voice of corrections," audits private and public prisons and detention facilities, and has accredited over 1,500 facilities in at least 49 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, including several military confinement and corrections facilities in the U.S. and abroad.

In their letter, the lawmakers expressed concern about potential conflicts of interest at the ACA, noting that the ACA plays a dual role as accreditor and advocate for the private prison industry and receives a significant portion of its revenue from the same private detention companies that it claims to objectively accredit. The lawmakers also raised concerns about the lack of rigor and independence of the ACA's accreditation process and noted that-according to documents provided to Senator Warren's staff by the ACA-it has repeatedly accredited facilities with serious health and safety problems.

"The health and safety of the Department's confinement and corrections facilities are critical to the rights and well-being of military and non-military personnel who are detained or work at these facilities, and to the national security of the United States," the lawmakers continued.

To address their concerns, Senator Warren and Congressman Gallego asked DoD to provide information about its contracts with the ACA, information on DoD's oversight and accountability measures for ensuring the health and safety of confinement and corrections facilities, and information describing the alternative accreditation and oversight considered by the Department.

In May 2019, Senator Warren sent a series of letters to the ACA, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Prisons expressing her serious concerns with, and requesting information about, the failures of the private prison accreditation system to protect the wellbeing of individuals detained at privately-operated facilities, and raised questions about conflicts of interest at the ACA.