What is P/J
Interview with an A/C Jail Coordinator
The following is an interview with Mike A., who has faithfully been taking the Alcoholics for Christ Programs into jails in upper Michigan. The Lord has been using Mike to prove that this program works in jails, and works successfully. Mike has been in the A/C Ministry for 19 years.
Interviewer: Mike, how long have you been going into jails as a ministry?
Mike: "I started about 15 years ago, never thinking it would go like it has, or become what it is-a national ministry. But the reason I got into it is because I used to be sick (spiritually) just like these guys, and I wanted to do something about it for them."
Interviewer: And, what changes have you seen occur in that period of time? Like changes in the make-up of the jail population, and the way the prisoners are treated?
Mike: "First of all, the jail population has increased and about 80% of the inmates are there for alcohol and drug related charges. Next answer, the jail administration is working more toward the recovery end (than it was 15 years ago)."
Interviewer: Is there any type of prisoner that is easier to minister to, like drug abusers and non-violent crimes, those going to prison, or crimes against persons? What type is the toughest to minister to?
Mike: "They are all the same, the only difference is how much they're hurting, or are needy (of the Lord). As far as those who won't accept help, they are the ones who aren't ready, and don't want the structure or discipline of the program."
Interviewer: Mike, you said that many times you see repeat returnees (recidivists), and you should not get discouraged about them coming back. (1). How do you not get discouraged? (2). What do you do to keep from getting discouraged?
Mike: "You do get discouraged and disappointed. This is where the Lord teaches us how to deal with it. But the real pay-off comes when someone will walk up to me when I'm out somewhere, and say, "Hi, Mike." And they tell me how good they're doing, going to church and all. So much different from the last time I saw them, when they were in jail. And always get pray support, as much as you can."
Interviewer: What is the best way to begin a jail ministry? (1). Whom do you first contact? (2). What kind of recommendations (like letters) should you get?
Mike: "To begin with, go to the 'main man' who is usually the Captain or Lieutenant of the jail. Tell him you have a program like AA, only it's Christian-based (they used to call A/C in jail-AA for Jesus). What would be really good is if you could meet on the same night that AA meets. That way the inmates could choose to go to one or the other, and the guards would only have to arrange to pull them out of their cells one time. Get as many letters of recommendations as you can, like from the Prosecuting Attorney, Judges, Pastors, or Counselors. AND NEVER-NEVER upset the Chaplain, or any of the Lock-up People. Remember, you're in there as a courtesy. They're doing you a favor!"
Interviewer: What if there is another ministry already in the jail you want to take A/C into? (1). Do you suggest "partnering" with them? (2) Or, should we go a different route? (3). What if they represent a local denomination (church)? (4). Since we are not "a church," should we try and fit our program with an existing jail ministry.
Mike: "Too many questions all at once! Let me see. Most ministries that are already in the jails don't need or want any partners. Next, stick to the program you have-it works. And A/C is an interdenominational ministry, so we can't become denominational. And finally, the way we work with any ministry is to 'Carry the message of Jesus Christ', OK?"
Interviewer: If there is already an alcohol/drug abuse program (governmental / private clinic) set-up in the jail, (1). What do we do? (2). How do we get A/C's 12-Step Program recognized?
Mike: "Well that's easy, those are secular programs and we're a spiritual program. And besides, the Lord is going to run the program, if YOU let Him! How to get it recognized? Pray, have the program ready and available, and the Lord will open doors. Like to set the prisoners free, and to let His people in with the good news."
Interviewer: What type and kind of literature, can and should we take into the jails? If they want Bibles (like the Life Recovery), how do we pay for them?
Mike: "Alcoholics for Christ has a promo-type fold-over that has the 12-Steps with Scripture References, and also a 12-Step Workbook that works real good. Local area churches often see A/C Jail Ministries as a missionary effort, and give donations to supply Bibles. However the person going in often has to "hustle up" the dough."
Interviewer: Normally, how much time do we have to run the program each night? How much time should we spend in each segment (praying, Scripture-reading, etc.) of the program?
Mike: "From one to two hours, depending upon what the lock-up people allow. As for the 2nd question, I let the Holy Spirit lead me in attending to the needs of those that come to the meeting."
Interviewer: If they have family (wife, mother, brother-sister) should we find out about them and invite them to a local meeting of recovery, for co-dependency issues? (2). If they have had addiction counseling, should we dialogue with that counselor (or agency)?
Mike: "Absolutely not! If they ask you, then you direct them to help (other resources). Let the women minister to women, and vice-versa. Also, we are not into addiction counseling, we are a support group of peers."
Interviewer: Do you, or have you ever got involved with helping a prisoner get bail? How about, referring them to a certain-type of lawyer, or a specialty bondsman?
Mike: "No, if they're trying to get out or off, it's usually a con. However, when they're sincere and work the program, I have worked with them to get them on a work release. And we're definitely not in the legal referral business."
Interviewer: Would you tell us in your own words, what is the best counsel you could give someone who is interested in this ministry? And please elaborate!
Mike: "OK. The 12-Steps of Recovery with the Scriptures and Jesus as Lord, are what works. There is a need in the jails for A/C because God is in it through His Son-Jesus. And also, if it doesn't work the way you want it to don't be discouraged, God will find a way. But, and this is real important, do find a Christian Base of Support that will "cover" you and your ministry with prayer and Scripture-reading (read the Word into and over your ministry).
You'll find that personal time and ministry time (like phone calls) clash and they sometimes can create conflict. So the best thing to do is to find someone else to help you with the ministry, as it's too much to do alone. So then you can switch-off with someone, and the ministry won't become a burden. Also seek interaction with another Christian, so that you will be held accountable, and it will also keep you in true humility to God. Don't be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help.
You'll need dedication, the kind that comes when the Lord is burning your heart, and gives you a deep desire to serve the Lord in this area. Discernment will be a great help, as it is necessary for the learning. Also, be a good listener, a good table-leader, and have a personal understanding of the 12-steps. Don't lose site of the necessity of change, just be ready to cope with it.
Lastly, you'll need a clear understanding of what "servant hood" really means, and especially what that means in relation to recovery. Remember, God said He would be with us always, through all things, and at all times.
Mike (or those working with him) frequently answers questions about the jail aspect of the Prison / Jails Ministry. Address all questions to Mike A. at the A/C office.