The purpose of a correctional facilities committee is to coordinate the work of individual A.A. members and groups who are interested in carrying our message of recovery to alcoholics behind the walls, and to set up means of smoothing the way from the facility to the larger A.A. community through prerelease contacts.
A correctional facilities committee may function within the structure of a General Service Conference area committee or a central office (intergroup). In A.A.'s early years, prison Twelfth Step work was usually done by an individual group or an individual member. As A.A. has grown, however, it seems that a committee formed within the A.A. service structure works more effectively.
Prior to 1977, services to correctional and treatment facilities were provided under the umbrella of the Institutions Committee. Because of rapid growth, the 1977 General Service Conference voted to dissolve its Institutions Committee and two new committees, one on correctional facilities and one on treatment facilities, were formed. This division was created to provide better service to groups and meetings in both kinds of facilities.
How AAs Carry the Message to Alcoholics in Correctional Facilities
How to Get Started
Perhaps the first step would be to contact your general service area committee or local intergroup (central office) and, if there is an existing correctional facilities committee, they will connect you to the committee chairperson. Local A.A. groups and members should be given the opportunity of sharing in and doing correctional facility Twelfth Step work. It has proved a good idea to have members from many groups serve on this committee. If a correctional facility committee does not exist in your area, then you may wish to form one. Thus, a chairperson is elected, and plans are worked out so that each correctional facility group and correctional facility in the area will be assured of A.A. help. The chairperson of the correctional facilities committee often participates within the area general service committee or intergroup steering committee. These committees convene every month to make assignments and handle other related business. The chairperson relays information from meetings of the Conference Committee on Correctional Facilities, held during the annual General Service Conference, and shares Conference thinking and experience on A.A. in correctional facilities.
If you are a new committee, the next step would be to list your correctional committee with the General Service Office in New York. Your chairperson will be put on a mailing list and receive a Correctional Facilities Workbook and other service literature and material.
The Correctional Facilities Workbook is a good basic tool. It contains information on how to do correctional facilities work, background information, guide letters, and a selection of pamphlets, leaflets, etc. If your area already has a functioning committee, the workbook may provide new ideas or new ways of implementing old ideas. If your committee is just getting off the ground, the workbook will help you find effective ways of getting organized.
Relationship to AA in the Area or District
As in all A.A. activity, communication of needs and progress is all important. Such communication can be maintained through group representatives at intergroup/central office or general service area meetings, through area or intergroup newsletters, and by direct contact by committee members at regular A.A. meetings.
Communication also takes place at special dinners where correctional facilities committees invite others to attend; regular correctional facilities workshops at area conferences (in a few areas, inmates are allowed to attend these conferences with their group advisers) and during monthly meetings of these committees (rotated within an area) to which all A.A.s are invited.
Basic Functions of CF Committees
The basic functions of correctional facilities committees are elaborated on in the Correctional Facilities Workbook. However, here are highlights of major headings.
Correctional facility committees, when allowed to do so, take A.A. meetings into facilities within their area. It encourages "outside" group participation in this kind of Twelfth Step work. In some areas, each group has a group correctional facilities representative. It provides a liaison between the correctional facilities groups and meetings and groups on the outside, and also coordinates prerelease contact.
The relationship with prison authorities is discussed in the workbook to ensure a positive reciprocal working relationship with administrators and staff. One such suggestion is that A.A.s in this Twelfth Step work seek to understand, respect, and adhere to all correctional facilities regulations.
The workbook also goes into detail about prison A.A. meetings. It suggests different ways to shoulder responsibility for meetings and speakers. Most committees find that adequate literature supplies are essential in a correctional facility group or meeting. Supplies are financed and obtained in several ways: Donated by local intergroup or general service committee; donated by members of the committee; purchased with individual contributions; provided by groups through their correctional facilities representatives.
Special funds: Buck of the Month Club or Pink Cans, where members contribute, and funds are used for correctional facilities literature; special meetings or dinners, at which a collection is taken; special cans at regular meetings, marked "For Correctional Facilities Literature."
Note: Correctional Facilities Discount Packages are available from G.S.O.
Experience shows that even though an inmate may have been participating in a group or meeting in a correctional facility, there is anxiety about the transition to a regular A.A. group on the outside. With the constant reminder that A.A. has only sobriety to offer, many committees do try to provide some additional personal contact, so this transition period can be made easier.
Pre-parole activity is encouraged in some areas, and many committees work closely with parole officers.
the committee can be given vital statistics on all parolees coming into and leaving the area. The parolees are then contacted immediately on arrival, and those going elsewhere are given contacts at their destinations through the A.A. Directories.
The contact chairperson or group sponsor meets the inmate on release. Sponsorship being the personal thing that it is, many areas have found it helpful to have inmates select their own sponsors once contact with the outside has been made. The initial contacts do not necessarily continue as sponsors, but do serve as a vital link between the prison and the outside A.A. group
Sharing From Behind the Walls is a one-page newsletter for A.A. members on the inside. It reflects anonymous sharing from inmate letters sent to G.S.O. This newsletter is published quarterly and included in letters sent out by G.S.O. to inmates. It is available upon request for use in A.A. correctional service.
Relationship to GSO
G.S.O. lists correctional facilities chairpersons and committee members (U.S. and Canada). The people on this mailing list are sent the following material:
- Box 4-5-9 - every two months
- Correctional Facilities Workbook (Chairperson)
- Sharing From Behind the Walls newsletter.
The Corrections Correspondence Service, coordinated through G.S.O., offers an opportunity for A.A.s on the "outside" to share experience, strength, and hope through letters with fellow members. Helpful guidelines for this service are provided to both "inside" and "outside" A.A.s. You may write to G.S.O. to become a part of this service
An attractive flyer (F-26) describing this service is available from G.S.O. to place in group literature racks.
Please keep in touch with us, so that we may share your activities in Box 4-5-9 and add your experience to our files, to help others who are involved in this rewarding area of service.
from "A.A. Guidelines/Correctional Facilities Committees"