Friday, July 31, 2009

Prison

My wife and I've been taking an AA meeting to prison in a nearby city once a month for about 12 years now. It's been a joy and a chore at different times but always a blessing.

This meeting used to have around 50+ folks attend (usually about 1/2 from the outside) but then we had a member stay in a service position too long and her resentful, toxic attitude literally drove off most of those who wanted to attend - both from the outside and the inside. Then it became necessary that we follow Department of Corrections (DOC) rules for security to attend and that meant that we only get 1-2 volunteers to show up.

The meeting shrunk (at one point, we only had 2-3 inmates showing up) but then we had a couple of case workers come in who felt that it would "help" AA if they would encourage the inmates to attend by telling them that attendance at our meeting would help their case with the parole board so we now get 15-25 inmates at each meeting. It's certainly deteriorated the meeting, in my opinion, to have 50%+ of those attending just be there due to wanting to look good to parole but we do, occasionally get a few admitted drunks along with the addicts and wanna bees.

Based on whoever keeps those statistics for the DOC (and however they judge them), over 85% of those at this facility are drug or alcohol abusers.

At our meeting last month, we went around the room and asked what they were in for and if alcohol was involved in their crime. Of the ~25 people there 100% (I'm not exaggerating) said they had been drinking when the committed their crime.

...and, you could see, there were still 50%+ percent who saw no direct link between their drinking and their landing in jail...

A few months ago, "Jason" took over the meeting and has been chairing every week since (we used to rotate the chair job around). He waxes eloquent until he shuts up and lets someone else share and then it's his turn again. I've been to sicker meetings but none that I've worked as hard as this one to be able to show up to.

Last night, his topic was on "willingness" - he shared his opinions about how willing you had to be and what you had to do to express enough willingness to earn sobriety for yourself. You just had to put yourself and your needs for sobriety 1st above all else.

Not my experience...

For what are probably obvious reasons, discussions of grace and surrender are often not well received with this crowd. But, I shared and we, between the 2-3 volunteers that were there, were able to offer our experience and a picture of what AA is like for those of us who are in the program. There were a couple of inmates who were genuinely appreciative of our being there. We tried to offer Jason some perspectives where he might see things differently.

We do the best we can and this, too, shall pass. The great advantage of this particular facility is that the population seldom stays more than a few months.

...but, one more time as it's been for the past 12 years, I got to leave sober and the gate closed behind me with me on the outside...

That's good enough for today...

4 comments:

Steve E. said...

...and the gates closed behind you. That is a good thing, Ed. It would be my good fortune (means: my own doing!) to get a shirt caught in the gates or a foot...and end up having to spend "time".

Hey that DOES sound like Charlie Brown, doesn't it?

Good for you, 12 years of prison work. God has that in His "Big Book", I'll bet!

Scott W said...

I am a bit confused. You ONLY had to put yourself and your needs for sobriety 1st above all else?

Mary Christine said...

Surrender and grace, not something a lot of AAs want to talk about. What a shame. Glad you were there.

Syd said...

It sounds like a great service that you do Ed. A tough crowd no doubt. But maybe you got through to a few of them.