Experience has shown that positive results can follow when groups and intergroups co-operate with the offender management service with a view to helping the still suffering alcoholic.
In our pamphlet “How AA Members Co-operate” the following appears:
“We cannot discriminate against any prospective AA members, even if he or she comes to us under pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency. Although the strength of our programme lies in the voluntary nature of membership in AA,many of us rst attend meetings because we were forced to, either by someone else or by ourinner discomfort. But continual exposure to AA educated us to the true nature of our illness. Who made the referral to AA is not what AA is interested in. It is the problem drinker who is our concern. We cannot predict who will recover, nor have we the authority to decide how recovery should be sought by any other alcoholic.”
A good working relationship between AA and the offender management service often takes many months and sometimes years to build. Experience shows that, as in many areas of service, setting up a system of co-operation is most likely to prove successful if patience and perseverance are practised.
What probation liaison officers do
We are trying to bring AA to the attention of those who have committed crimes which haven’t led to them being in prison but to ‘probation’ sentences in the community, and to those released from prison under probationary conditions. We hope to show the alcoholics amongst them that it is possible to live a good and happy life without alcohol, and that they can, if they wish, get out of the downward spiral of their repeat drinking and offending cycles.
Carrying the message
Showing them this other way of life involves us in getting AA literature to them, talking to alcohol awareness and other courses, and getting probationers to attend AA meetings. When we give talks we try to make sure that at least one of us can share his or her story about their experience of the criminal justice system and how stopping drinking has enabled them to avoid reoffending, and to break the cycle which could lead to prison. When appropriate we can arrange for individuals to be 12-stepped and brought to the rooms.
Access to clients
In order to gain access to the clients we have to approach the offender managers. We might ask to meet them individually or to talk to their office team meetings. AA literature is made available to them. Officers may be invited to attend an ‘open’ meeting of a Group to hear and see what AA members are like and what they have achieved. They are told what AA can and cannot promise. We can offer a way to sober living if someone wants this enough, but we cannot guarantee someone’s recovery.
Initially, offender managers often have misconceptions about AA and find it difficult to understand us, but when they become aware of our strengths and limitations, and when they have heard shares from those who have been in trouble and are now in sobriety, they usually become enthusiastic about the Fellowship. After all, we are willing, free, and have a 24-hour telephone and sponsorship coverage across the country.
Having gained the support of offender managers we hope to get invitations from them to meet and talk to their clients, individually or in groups. Those offender managers who have listened and have come to believe that AA can help some of their more difficult clients will be firmly behind our efforts to reach these still suffering alcoholics. So, to sum up, we want to inform offender managers about AA and, through them, reach and get our message of hope to those who are in trouble with the law because of their drinking, at a time when they can still turn their lives around.