Fellowship-Wide Services (F.W.S.)

Prison Outreach, Privacy, and Anonymity

The Question:
Our Intergroup has been considering putting an information packet together to distribute to the criminal justice system. We are trying to determine if leaving literature and contact information at the courthouses is in keeping with the Traditions. There has been some concern expressed about privacy issues. We would be grateful for your input.

This outreach is not a violation of Tradition 11 regarding anonymity, because it does not identify individual members, and is information about, not promotion of SLAA. “An Introduction to SLAA” was written specifically for this kind of use. This outreach activity is a fine example of a group fulfilling Tradition 5 – our primary purpose is to carry our message to those who still suffer.
The privacy issue, and the reality of today’s world, suggests that it is wise to have the contact information other than any individual’s phone number, e-mail, or other address. If the local group or intergroup does not have a post office box, answering service or web-site, a special e-mail identity created specifically for contact purposes can be used. Another inexpensive contact point can be a post office box. Especially in prison outreach, safety practices protect the individuals in the outreach effort from unpleasant experiences and the inmates from the temptation to act out with intrigue.
My understanding is that this outreach works one way but not the other. It is ok for us to distribute informational packets to treatment centers, therapists, and the criminal justice system. However, it is not ok for us to promote these facilities within our meetings. The way I understand it is that it is important, even necessary for us to carry the message (Tradition 5) by attempting to educate others about our recovery fellowship. AA and Al-Anon even have commercials now for educational purposes. An informational packet at the criminal justice system would definitely come under the heading of attempting to educate others….and carrying the message. I would hope this could be done in a way that does not single out certain individuals but rather allows access of information of numerous recovery programs to all who might be interested. If this is not the case, perhaps individuals with this issue could be given packets by probation officers or case workers.

In terms of outreach, putting together information for the justice system is a commendable thing to do. We realize that while all addicts are not offenders and all offenders are not addicts, there are a great many people in the justice system who would qualify as addicts.

In my area we did this a few years ago by sending out a letter to the county probation departments as well as to the parole authority to make them aware of our services. In order that we might keep the anonymity of the members of the Fellowship, we signed the letters as the Outreach Committee of (name omitted) Intergroup. We also included the phone number to our information line as well as our web address for their convenience. We also included the pamphlet “For the Professional”.

Because IDs are commonly checked as we enter government buildings, it would be difficult to use a pseudonym to go in personally to deliver the information. This could then draw unwanted attention to the individual and to the program as a whole. As a guide the Intergroup could refer to the pamphlet of the 12 Guidelines for Dealing with the Media and adapt the suggestions to this outreach.

I do not believe that this would be a violation of any of the Traditions regarding anonymity.

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