Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that explore life, faith and meaning and when run in prisons, offers opportunity for incredible transformation.
Prisoners often experience a sense of loss and have a hunger to find purpose and meaning in life. Alpha can give them a chance to ask life’s big questions and find out about the Christian faith in a safe, informal and friendly environment.
Recent studies reveal that 89% of attendees said the Alpha Course had a positive impact on their life with 67% of non-Christians now describing themselves as followers of Jesus after completing Alpha in Prisons.
96five’s Steff Willis caught up with Alpha Australia’s National Prisons Director Liza Kelder to learn more about how Alpha in Prisons got started and why it’s so effective.
“Alpha has been running internationally for quite some time and Alpha in Prisons originated in the UK due to two male prisoners” Liza said.
“They were asking someone from HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton) where Alpha got started to come down and run something. A lady by the name of Emmy Wilson went down to a prison and she ran a session and there were these two big time criminals, actually a father and a son, and they found that they were deeply touched by the Holy Spirit and transformed.
“They then kept telling people all around the prison, ‘Jesus is real, Jesus is real’.
Liza described how these two criminals were then moved on to another prison and they asked their chaplain if they could start Alpha and that’s how Alpha in Prisons began – two prisoners back in 1995 who recognised the power of the Alpha Course.
“We’ve definitely seen a receptiveness in terms of people’s openness” Liza said.
“You’ll find that if people haven’t been asked questions about what they really believe or think before that when they’re genuinely asked without a correction, they really do open up. Liza Kelder, Alpha Australia Prisons Director
“We’ve had people of different faiths and also atheists that come and say, ‘hey I totally disagree with this’ and the team thankfully are trained to say ‘great, you’re actually in the right place’.
In conjunction with running Alpha in prisons, churches have been running a Bridge program which is a like Alpha program that’s come out of HTB in the UK which focusses on life, character and community.
“Bridge is another space for people leaving prison to explore and grow in their Christian faith and character, and also just help with some practical needs.
“The Prison Reform Trust Bromley Briefings said that 48% of adults in the UK are reconvicted within a year of release. In 2021 they had 8 Bridge Program participants and only one of them went back to prison… that’s a huge reduction in recidivism.
Since the introduction of the Bridge program, the UK recidivism rate decreased to 45% in 202 and 42% in 2023.
“The key thing that they’re finding is that it’s the meaningful community and while there’s some topics for discussion around character, life and community they’re finding that entering into a new community is helping to keep them out of prison.”
To learn more about Alpha in Prisons or to get involved, visit the Alpha Australia website or contact Liza Kelder directly.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
Feature Image: Canva Pro