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Open Positions




AA In Correctional Facilities


 November 28, 1943, is a little-known landmark day in A.A. history.  Bill W. himself was the guest speaker at an A.A. meeting held in California's then notorious San Quentin Penitentiary.  The famous warden, Clinton Duffy, had allowed the first A.A. meeting to be held at that prison in 1942, and Bill was anxious to observe the progress of this unprecedented step.

"There were formidable problems to solve," Bill wrote later, "but Warden Duffy took them, and his faith was justified."

The fact that the majority of criminal acts committed in North America occur after the perpetrator has been drinking (usually heavily) is reason enough for the fact that A.A. meetings in prisons and jails for both men and women are now the rule rather than the exception, not only in the United States and Canada, but around a good deal of the globe.  Although he or she may not be inclined to boast about it, a good number of A.A.'s most active members attended their first A.A. meeting while serving time in a jail or prison.

Approximately 500 letters a month arrive at the General Service Office from prisoners who may request literature or ask for information about starting a new group, advice regarding group disputes or help in making contacts with outside A.A. sponsors.  Local institutions committees, which have increased in number considerably during the past decade, are often encouraged by correctional officials to bring speakers to prison meetings from outside the walls, especially A.A. members who, at one time or another, have served time themselves.  Inmates are almost always grateful for this seconhand taste of a free life and the living reminder of the opportunity for a sobriety that awaits the majority of them, a day at a time, upon parole or release.

Many "outside" A.A.s also do Twelfth Step work by volunteering for the Corrections Correspondence Service.  G.S.O.'s Correctional Facilities coordinator matches up inmate requests for outside correspondents with A.A.s wishing to correspond with A.A.s on the "inside."

Also, local area Correctional Facilities committees often set up networks of prerelease contacts so inmates will have immediate contact with A.A. in the area where they will settle after incarceration.

A completely reliable estimate of the number of A.A. members in correctional institutions today in North America is impossible to make, but the number of A.A. member inmates in detention facilities probably lies somewhere in the vicinity of 51,000.  At any rate, G.S.O.'s Correctional Facilities desk records 1,085 (2,500 in 2002) groups presently meeting in penal institutions of various sorts in the U.S. and Canada in 1995.  Most of them have full status as bona fide, recognized, regular A.A. groups, and, incredibly, about a dozen of them have made recent contributions to G.S.O.'s General Fund.  "The language of the heart" is spoken everywhere.

“A Family Album and Souvenir of the 
International AA Convention, 
San Diego, Calif. 
June 29-July2,1995-60 years”
Reprinted by permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.


“Helping a newcomer to bridge the gap between the cocoon like life in a hospital or treatment center and becoming sober, active member in the Fellowship is possibly the oldest, and one of the most critical, challenges Alcoholics Anonymous holds out to any of it’s members."

  The story of how, in 1935 Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. visited A.A. number three, Bill D.- known as “the man on the bed”-in an Akron, Ohio, hospital has become a Fellowship legend. Dr. Bob’s Herculean Twelfth-Step activities at St. Thomas Hospital before his death in 1950 is another. So spectacular were the thousands of recoveries attributed to Dr. Bob and nurse Sister Ignatia, that Bill frequently referred to his co-founder as “the Prince of twelve-steppers.”

  Barely sober alcoholics today may come from one of a number of different sorts of institutions, after which they are encouraged to start working the A.A. program as soon as possible. For many, this is not quite as simple as it sounds. Where do they go? What do they do? Whom can they trust?

  For this reason, A.A. members are encouraged at all levels-local, state and area-wide-to participate in one of the more than 400 Treatment Facilities committees that are presently in contact with the Treatment Facilities desk at the General Service Office.

  “ These local T.F. committees are designed to help alcoholics in any kind of treatment program, even the shortest, to make the tricky transition from a regulated environment to the real world, with all it’s temptations, beyond it’s front door. Experience has shown that one of the most slippery paths in the world is that short one between an alcoholism treatment center and a local cocktail lounge, gin mill or liquor store."