Alpha Prison and Community Ministry
APCM website • Larry Mayer, Administrator, 860.808.4842
In the late ’90s, Associate Minister Pat Handley traveled with a group of First Church Alpha team leaders to an Alpha conference in the Boston area. During that conference Larry Mayer (photo at right) had the opportunity to speak directly to the founder of Alpha—Nicky Gumbel, Vicar, Holy Trinity Brompton, London—about offering an Alpha course in the Connecticut prison system.
The first correctional facility Alpha course began in September 1999 in Cheshire, one of Connecticut’s high security level prisons. This ministry has now expanded to include nine correctional facility programs, and also two community programs—one at a center administered by the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), and the other at Isaiah 61:1, a Department of Correction halfway house. The ministry provides offenders a sense of hope that no matter the circumstances there is an opportunity through a personal relationship with the Lord to have inner peace and a life worth living.
Collection of program data began in 2007, and from 7/1/07 through 12/31/11 a total of 1,402 Certificates of Completion have been signed by the Department of Correction Director of Religious Services and presented to offender participants. As offenders grow in their faith, positive life changes become evident, and it is hoped that the data collected will support the strong belief that the prison Alpha programs are effective in reducing recidivism.
When the ministry began in 1999, all of the volunteers had attended an Alpha course through First Church. Since that time, the Lord has provided 45 dedicated volunteers from various churches, who now conduct the Alpha courses. A third of those 45 gathered recently for a group shot. With First Church members shown in blue, they are (top row) Eric Rodko, Eddie Torres, Larry Mayer, Rob Struzinski, Bruce Huffaker, Joe Herz, Ken Anderson, (middle row) Diane Taylor, Bonnie Morassini, Manny Russell, Gerti Laesser, Charlie Szyszko, Ron Lootsma, (front row) Gary Lipp, Jon Vining, and Terri Corliss. First Church members Paul Breglio and Justin McDowell were unavailable for the photo.
Since its inception, the Pastors and congregation of First Church have helped to sustain and strengthen this ministry through prayer, encouragement, and financial contributions.
The Alpha Prison and Community Ministry is one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
The ministry works closely with Free Inside, another organization that offers Alpha programs within the Connecticut correctional system. Together, we provide programs in 11 of the 15 correctional facilities within the state system. The Alpha programs benefit immeasurably from the outstanding organizational support provided by the Department of Correction administrators, chaplains, and correctional officers.
The Alpha Prison and Community Ministry is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c) with principle goals to:
- Introduce the Christian faith to incarcerated Connecticut offenders and explain how it is possible to live the Christian life positively, practically, and joyfully
- Provide community Alpha Programs to help released offenders enhance their faith and live successfully in the community as productive citizens
- Involve annually in the ministry 200 Protestant and Catholic churches that will support this ministry through prayer, volunteer recruiting, and financial contributions
If you are interested in learning more about this ministry, including volunteering, please visit www.alphaprisonandcommunityministry.org, or contact Larry Mayer, Administrator, at 860-808-4842.