History of Alpha for Prisons
In 1995 the first alpha course was started in a prison in the United Kingdom. Currently over 80% of the UK prison are running Alpha. In 1996 Alpha USA established and since developed into regional teams around the country. Currently there are 315,801 people who have tried Alpha in 2016 in every state in the US.
In 1997 the first Alpha course was introduced into prison and in June 2004 Alpha USA established the Division of Alpha Prisons & Reentry to coordinate Alpha courses and to assist in the development of Reentry programs for ex-inmates.
Currently Alpha courses are running in over 575 prisons and impacting over 35,000 offenders per year.
Jack retired with 30 years of service from the State of Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Most of his career with the state was as a prison warden where he served in that capacity at three facilities. Upon retirement in 1996 he joined the staff of Prison Fellowship Ministries where he served as National Director of Operations for the InnerChange Freedom Initiative establishing reentry programs in Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota. Through IFI a model was established which vastly reduces the rate that inmates released from prison re-offend. As the National Director for Prisons & Reentry with Alpha USA since 2004 his primary function is to link Faithbased and community organizations with correctional facilities to reduce recidivism and thereby increase public safety.
Jack consults nationally and internationally regarding criminal justice issues to include testifying before Congress and was previously appointed to an 8-year term by the US Attorney General to the Advisory Board of the National Institute of Corrections. He earned his Bachelors of Science from Oklahoma State University in Sociology as well as a Masters of Science in Correctional Administration. He completed his course work toward his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma in Organizational Leadership.
Jack and his wife Mel live in Wichita Falls, Texas and are thoroughly enjoying life.
National Deputy Director
Through his six-year appointment as Vice-Chairman of Prison Fellowship's Justice Fellowship National Leadership Advisory Council he worked with the Missouri "Jobs for Missouri" Committee, which specifically addressed Prison Industry legislation. During this time Bruce developed a strong interest in the criminal justice system. He has also served on the Restorative Justice Council of the National Diocese Association of St Louis and was a presenter at the National Community Sentencing Guidelines Association of Chicago. As a result of his contributions to this work he was hired by Prison Fellowship as the Program Manager of the Iowa "InnerChange Freedom Initiative", which is an intensive prison pre and post release program for inmates. For two years he served as the Director of Prison Ministries for "Child Evangelism Fellowship", developing resources and programs for the highest at risk population in the world, the child of a parent in prison.
Bruce is primarily responsible for developing local church communities to invest in prisoners through not only the delivery of the Alpha Course but also for assisting in their transition back into the community through partnering with local prisons and jails through the establishment of the Alpha USA model of prisoner reintegration.
Lou Ronna Richardson
With over ten years experience in ministry organizations as an office manage from Child Evangelism Fellowship and working in the import/export business for a large retail chain for another ten years, Lou Ronna was a great fit to the Alpha Prison and Reentry team.
Lou Ronna works with all the Prison Advisors, volunteers across the US that run the courses in the prisons and jails. Her strength is networking with church/prison leaders across the country to promote additional courses and helping to supply them with information, resources, and prayer. Her main focus is continually building those relationships.
Her passion is that every inmate, juvenile or anyone who’s serving time in jail would have a chance to explore the meaning of life through the Alpha course.
She lives in Missouri with her husband Jack and has been with Alpha Prisons for over eleven years. As Jack Cowley says: "She our glue that keeps us together!"
Charles W. Colson
"I know of many people whose lives have been transformed through the Alpha course. I rejoice at how God is using it so powerfully to renew many churches both inside and outside prison walls."
Charles W. Colson
Prison Fellowship Ministries
Reverend John C. James
"I commend the Alpha course because I know that many hundreds of our Baptist churches are finding it very helpful in reaching rank outsiders to the local church."
Reverend John C. James
President of the Baptist Union
Reverend Gordon Scruton
"God is using the Alpha program to transform the lives of churched and unchurched people in parishes across our diocese. We need this kind of basic evangelistic and formation process to build healthy Christians and congregations."
The Right Reverend Gordon Scruton
Bishop of Western Massachusetts, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
CFI is a partnership between Community Christian Church in Naperville, Il, NewThing which is their church planting division and Alpha USA Division of Prisons & Reentry. Under the management of NewThing a local church “plants” new church inside the prison resourced through a broadcast of delay of church services from Community Christian church along with weekly small group curriculum led by a trained Campus Pastor and key volunteers under the authority of the prison chaplain.
The local church provides all approved audio/visual equipment, curriculum and are responsible for any additional cost of the Initiative. Curriculum concentrates on the immediate needs of the offenders as well as themes essential for successful reentry: Character Development, Anger Management, Addiction Prevention, Family/Child Relationships and Daily Living Skills.
Best practices for offender reentry indicate that programs must start prior to release and connected to community resources. This is accomplished through a coordinated effort that includes a vast network of churched connected to Community Christian Church, NewThing and Alpha USA. These churches have access to training and expertise in working with ex-offenders upon release.
As stated in Dr. Byron R. Johnson’s book, “More God Less Crime” page 183, “Research is beginning to help us understand the importance of religious influences in protecting people from harmful outcomes as well as promoting beneficial and prosocial outcomes. This beneficial relationship is not simply a function of religion’s constraining function or what is discourages – opposing drug use or delinquent behavior- but also through what is encourages: promoting behaviors that can enhance purpose, well-being or educational attainment.”