Kairos Prison Ministry

Kairos is an ecumenical ministry that involves more than 20,000 volunteers in programs at 350 prisons in the US and abroad. We are active in 3 prisons in Maryland — the Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown, the Roxbury Correctional Institution, and the Women’s Prison at Jessup. The program is modeled after the Cursillo short course in Christianity and similar programs such as Emmaus, Tres Dias and Via de Christo. More than 170 thousand incarcerated men and women have been involved in Kairos since its inception. St. Anne’s and the Episcopal Church have supported Kairos for many years.

Kairos volunteers come from all walks of life. The all share a desire to follow Jesus’ admonition of Matthew 25:35, “I was in prison and you visited me.” In addition to being a member of a team that goes into prison, there are other opportunities to serve. You can be a prayer partner, a support volunteer (to help the team going into a prison), or you can write letters to prisoners. St. Anne’s parishioners have written over 800 letters to prisoners recently. Kairos Outside is a program for women whose husband, son, or father is incarcerated. Kairos Torch is a program for youthful offenders.

If you feel the call to become a part of a Kairos team, contact Ford Rowan, a St. Anne’s parishioner who is a former state chairman of Kairos in Maryland. His email address is fordrowan@comcast.net.

Touchstones Prison Project

The Touchstones prison project, which has been operating almost continuously for twelve years, runs approximately six sessions monthly at the Maryland Correctional Facility at Jessup with additional sessions on days when families are invited to the prison for special focus programming (such as “Reading Unites Families” when Touchstones discussion groups are offered for wives and girlfriends of prisoners). In the prison environment, there is a fundamental need for prisoners not only to learn new occupational and personal skills that supplant previously acquired survival skills learned on the street or within the criminal justice system, but there is also a pervasive need for community, for humanity, and for compassion. Touchstones provides a unique environment where all of these crucial needs can be met.

Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives of the Touchstones program in prison are simple: to offer a safe and secure place where prisoners and volunteers can build community and share an understanding of humanity’s equal and common requisites, regardless of one’s path or past. Through this exchange, the incarcerated regain their dignity, examine their decisions and choices, and consider how their lives behind bars may still have meaning for themselves and their families. For those who participate from outside the prison, particularly parishioners, this program offers a chance to reflect on one’s spiritual journey, assumptions and presuppositions about mankind, the role of providence, and how we create a kinder and gentler world when we accept others for who they are.

The Method

The Touchstones method is a discussion-based educational tool that encourages spiritual growth and helps to develop cognitive and behavioral skills like critical reading and thinking, effective communication, respect for others, and personal responsibility. Each of the Touchstones sessions lasts for about an hour and includes approximately twenty prisoners and volunteers from local parishes, including St. Anne’s and St. Margaret’s in Annapolis, and Christ Church and St. Mark’s in Washington, DC. During the sessions, the participants work together to explore the fundamental underpinnings of humanity such as love, forgiveness, compassion, justice, and community. Through guided dialogue by a practiced discussion group leader, the participants—those from outside and inside the prison—share discussion about the decisions they have made and the consequences of thought and action. Generally, other prison ministries focus on assisting inmates during their first days in the community, or while they are on release, or in supporting their relationships with families while they are in prison, but Touchstones is committed to long-term engagement with the inmates themselves and to offering additional programming as possible through family days run by the prison system.

By means of the Touchstones process, physical violence, psychological abuse, and the emotional scarring that characterizes so many inmates is replaced with spiritual reflection, healing, and intellectual development. This transformation arises through the experience of self-efficacy and the ability to humanize the environment through engagement with fellow prisoners and volunteers. The educational component of the Touchstones process means that prisoners and parishioners alike are exposed to fundamental philosophical concepts that form the foundation of civilization, learn to listen actively, begin to think critically about their own opinions and those of their co-participants, ask questions that lead to deeper understandings and clarifications of statements, and synthesize a new understanding of how these crucial issues impact their lives and the lives of others.”