The Coalition Against the American Correctional Association (CA-ACA) is a group of grassroots organizations that convened in August of 2001, during the ACA's 131st Congress of Corrections in Philadelphia. The CA-ACA counterconference was a forum for prison activists, human rights advocacy groups, church and community organizations, ex-inmates, legislative reformers, and others who felt that their values and concerns were largely excluded from the ACA's convention and trade show.

During the 2001 counterconference, CA-ACA members drafted a list of demands to present to the ACA. They brought these demands to the ACA's closing plenary, on August 16th at the Philadelphia Convention Center Marriott. Independent media journalist Steve Taylor describes the events that ensued:

"I headed back up to the fifth floor where the Plenary had yet to begin. From the comments of those entering the room, it seems as this was due to oversleeping, hungover delegates.

A minute or so into the introductory speech, a protestor stood up and started reading a list of demands. The ACA speaker tried to speak over her, but was not successful; he switched to applause getting tactics in the vein of, "Wasn't that a great party we had last night."...In what would be the most surreal moment of the day, two ACA members started singing loudly over the microphone in an attempt to drown out the protesters. First in the repertoire, "America," then "The Star Spangled Banner," then that Kenny Rogers gambler song -- noticeable disappointment visible in the singer when the audience didn't respond to the "Know when to hold" call-and-response. Interesting that at several points during the national anthem, the audience collectively forgot the words … though they didn’t forget to stand up, of course."

Twelve people were arrested at the ACA plenary, including three independent media journalists who were not participating in the direct action. The five men and seven women of the "Plenary Twelve" were charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.

The demands of the CA-ACA are as follows:

    The ACA must:

    Accredited prisons must:

    • Ensure prisoner access to the media.
    • Ensure family friendly policies, such as hassle-free visiting procedures, full contact visits, on site housing for long term family visits, and thorough attempts to keep prisoners located near their family and support.
    • Keep juvenile prisoners separated from adult populations.
    • Ensure free quality health care available on demand, including ensuring that prisoners with chronic illnesses receive daily, timely access to life supporting/enhancing medication, and not contract with for-profit companies for health services.
    • Focus on care, not punishment of the mentally ill.
    • Provide condoms, AIDS education, and free and confidential STD testing.
    • Provide access to libraries, law books, and college level courses.
    • Provide nutritious, balanced meals, and provide meals in line with prisoners’ religious beliefs and practices.
    • Ensure fair market wages for prison labor, and fair market prices for goods and services sold to prisoners, including telephone service.
    • Recognize prisoner unions, and include unions in any and all decisions dealing with prisoners.

    The ACA’s accreditation standards must address sexual harassment, abuse, and assault within prisons by:

    • Ensuring that incarcerated women are guarded only by female correctional officers, in accordance with international law.
    • Basing accreditation on prison policies and procedures on sexual abuse, and on independent monitoring of these policies and procedures.
    • Ensuring that all complaints of sexual abuse/assault be investigated independently, promptly, and thoroughly in line with the best practices for investigation of sexual assault.
    • Providing appropriate care and redress to all victims of sexual abuse within prison, including allowing community-based organizations to provide ongoing services to prisoners who are survivors of abuse.
    • Providing confidentiality and support to prisoners and staff who report sexual abuse, to prevent retaliation.
    • Ban the shackling of pregnant prisoners, and prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant women when they are being transported, when they are in a hospital awaiting birth, and after they have just given birth.

    We demand that the ACA put its lobbying money and energy behind a truly progressive agenda that promotes real rehabilitation, and provides resources for community empowerment. This would include:

    • Working for an accreditation system with more force and accountability - insisting that prisons that fail to be accredited receive fines and are no longer eligible for government funding and that they be banned from contracts with any and all state, federal, and local governments.
    • Insisting on the release of all non-violent drug offenders into halfway houses designed for treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Insisting on the release of all people jailed for immigrating into the U.S.
    • Standing for the right of all prisoners to adequate representation, reasonable bail, and a speedy trial.
    • Supporting legislation to include prisoner unions in all decision making processes.
    • Supporting legislation endorsing prisoner access to media.
    • Putting forward legislation ending life sentences without parole and sentences that equate to life without parole.
    • Putting forward legislation calling for an end to solitary confinement.
    • Putting forward legislation supporting the rights of prisoners and former prisoners to vote.

    The ACA must immediately stop allowing its trade shows to be a venue for the selling and buying of execution-related products and other products that are used for torture, as defined in international human rights conventions.

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