PRIVACY AND ANONYMITY- Regarding outreach to prisons

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

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.
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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.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.