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  • International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
    International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology Promoting the development of psychological practice in criminal justice and law enforcement settings since 1954.
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  • International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
    International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology Interested in joining the Association? Click on the membership tab to view our member benefits.

IACFP Standards: An Historical Overview (1978-1980)

As the need for mental health services in correctional settings became more clear in the mid-1970s, the idea of providing correctional psychologists with practice standards emerged at IACFP business meetings during the late 1970s. The idea became more crystallized during the annual congress of the American Correctional Association (ACA) in 1978, and it was resolved that IACFP would have a set of standards by the August 1979 ACA congress.

Events subsequently occurred to facilitate that resolve. The American Medical Association (AMA) was also interested in developing standards for psychiatrists who provided psychiatric services to jails, and composed a task force to that end. AMA contacted the American Psychological Association (APA), and Robert Levinson, then Deputy Assistant Director of Inmate Program Services in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (and ultimately chair of IACFP's Standards committee), was recommended to be the APA representative to AMA's task force. By April 1979, AMA's draft set of standards was completed, and a version eventually integrated into their Health Standards for Jails. It was now even more clear that correctional psychologists also needed a parallel set of practice standards, and Robert Levinson's recent experience would be very useful.

A task force was formed and met at APA headquarters during June 1979, in Washington, D.C. Chaired by Robert Levinson, it consisted of John Henning (Research and Evaluation, Illinois Department of Corrections), Robert J. Powitzky (administrator of Psychology Services in the Federal Bureau of Prisons), Rederick Rotgers (Director of Psychological Services, New Jersey State Prison), and Michael F. Whiddon (Director of Clinical Services, Mississippi Department of Corrections). Gary VandenBos (Administrative Officer, Mental Health Policy of APA) served an important liaison role.

The first draft of IACFP's Standards that emerged from this meeting reflected principles found in a variety of other standards, including (but not exclusive to) Standards for Educational and Psychological Tests (APA, 1974), Standards for Health Services in Correctional Institutions (American Public Health Association, 1976), Ethical Standards for Psychologists (APA, 1976), Standards for Providers in Psychological Services (APA, 1977), Manual of Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions (ACA, 1977), Task Force Report on Standards for Jails (AMA, 1979) and Standards for Providers of Forensic Psychological Services (APA, 1979).

The IACFP task force presented this draft, entitled "Standards for Psychological Services in Adult Jails and Prisons," to the IACFP membership at their annual business meeting at the ACA congress in Philadelphia in August 1979. Comments were elicited from the membership as well as others in the field of correctional psychology. The integration of these comments with the initial draft ultimately resulted in the first edition of the IACFP practice standards.

The final set of standards were originally submitted to ACA's Committee on Standards for possible inclusion in their second edition of The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections' Standards for Adult Correctional Facilities. However, IACFP's task force thought it unlikely that ACA would adopt all the proposed standards, and decided it would be more useful to provide the standards in their entirety as a reference resource. Consequently, the Standards were published in the March 1980 issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior (pp. 81-127).

The 1980 Standards remained the only comprehensive set of practice guidelines for correctional psychologists as well as correctional organizations within which psychological services were provided. However, the original task recognized that these standards would need periodic updating. This recognition was realized in this 2nd edition.

Richard Althouse, Ph.D.