The first APCCA meeting was held in Hong Kong in 1980 and developed from discussions between then-Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology and then-Commissioner of the Hong Kong Prisons Department. Since 1980, the conference has met every year apart from 1990, 2020 and 2021.
During 2001 and 2002, APCCA established a new framework for its operations with the drafting of the APCCA Joint Declaration. Following recommendations of a Working Party, the Joint Declaration was signed at the 2002 conference in Indonesia. It sought to place APCCA on a firmer and clearer footing for the future while not detracting from its positive and well-established traditions.
Key features of the Joint Declaration include a broad statement of the organisation’s goals, establishment of a Governing Board, formalisation of arrangements for the administration of the APCCA Fund and provisions governing the roles of the Secretariat and the Rapporteur.
At the 2010 conference in Canada, while the conference acknowledged the achievements of APCCA since the establishment of the Joint Declaration in 2002, it was decided that it was timely to survey members and to establish a Working Group to examine opportunities to build on these achievements over the next decade. The Working Group met at the Malaysian Prison Department's Correctional Academy in Langkawi in July 2011.
During the 2011 conference in Tokyo, the findings and recommendations of the Working Group report were accepted and put into action.
APCCA has adopted a number of symbols that embody its enduring values and traditions. The symbols are a Fijian war club, an Indian oil lamp and a flag. Although a Fijian ‘war club’ might appear to carry connotations of aggression and violence, its true significance is that it is a sign of peace, harmony and civilisation when it is surrendered to another person. The Indian brass lamp is a symbol of learning and enlightenment.
The flag, prepared by the Corrections Bureau of Korea, was adopted in 2005 and symbolises the long life and strength of APCCA. At the 2008 conference in Malaysia, APCCA adopted a song composed by the Malaysian Prison Department entitled ‘Togetherness in Unity’.