A New Opportunity for Hope Behind the Walls

bridge the gap
Bridging The Gap
April 30, 2015
12 spiritual principles
Twelve Spiritual Principles (Virtues)
May 11, 2015
Behind Prison Walls

The Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is filled with men and women who know very well that “A.A. is more than a set of principles; it is a society of alcoholics in action.” (The A.A. Service Manual, p. S1) They keep an eye peeled for anyone, anywhere, reaching out for help so that they may offer the hand of A.A. Of course, most remember when it was their own hand reaching out for assistance—and help was there. The handiwork of these alcoholics is revealed in countless ways, from a simple invitation to coffee to standing for election to a position in general service. Indeed, whenever an A.A. is in action, helping other alcoholics, great rewards often follow: “Life will take on new meaning. . . . Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p.89)

Bob C. is one of those A.A.s in action. After being elected Area 14 (Northern Florida) corrections chairperson, he said that, other than helping to carry A.A.’s message to a still-suffering alcoholic, he “wasn’t sure what to expect.” One day, however, he received an e-mail from Keith S., an A.A. in California participating in the Corrections Correspondence Service (CCS) through the General Service Office. (CCS is a Twelfth Step opportunity which links A.A. members on the “outside” with A.A. members in correctional facilities to provide a source of experience as it relates to problems with alcohol. Men are linked with men and women with women.)

Keith S., an “outside” A.A., was corresponding with Greg M., an alcoholic on the “inside” at a state prison in Florida. In his correspondence, Greg shared that he’d like to attend an A.A. meeting, but there hadn’t been an A.A. meeting at that correctional facility for nearly ten years. After receiving Greg’s letter, Keith tracked down the corrections area chair—Bob C.—in the region where the prison is located. He related Greg’s request for a meeting and asked Bob about the possibility of bringing an A.A. meeting behind the walls of that facility.

Public Information service coordinator in Tallahassee, Florida. He spoke with prison officials and other A.A.s with experience in corrections and service. A few months later, after meeting with the warden, as well as with security and education personnel, A.A. was given permission to bring a meeting inside the walls. Since then, it has been a resounding success.

That meeting is now a new group called “Fresh Start Behind the Walls.” It has about 14 members, a G.S.R., and is a closed meeting format. It meets every Wednesday at 6:30 PM in the main unit of the prison. Bob C.’s voice is still tinged with awe and wonder as he relates the events around the creation of the meeting. “Prison officials have gone out of their way to be helpful. We have coffee at the meeting. They rescheduled a head count so that some of the men could attend the meeting without interruption.” Energized by the success of the meeting, he said, “I have made it my home group. I will be going there for years.” Bob also shares something that almost never fails to add a spark of excitement to an A.A.’s eye: “Calls are flooding in from other institutions—they all want A.A. I am organizing an event to get more volunteers to help fill all the requests.”

By Box 4-5-9 Vol. 56, No. 1

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.