Prison Fellowship International

Prison Fellowship International (PFI) is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) of national Prison Fellowship (PF) organisations from 117 countries.[1]

Primary Mission

"To mobilize and assist the Christian community in its ministry to prisoners, ex-prisoners, victims, and their families; and in the advancement of restorative justice." [2]


PFI was founded in 1979, three years after the formation of Prison Fellowship United States and the emergence of similar organisations in England, Australia, Canada, and Costa Rica. PF USA was formed by Charles W. Colson following his release from prison. Colson had been serving time in prison after being convicted for an offence related to "Watergate," the infamous political scandal during the Nixon presidency.


Prisoner support

PF national organisations work in support of prison chaplaincy and assisting the work of the church behind bars.

Through PFI's Global Assistance Programme national PF organisations seek to respond to acute medical needs and emergencies in prisons through partnership with volunteer medical professionals who provide short-term assistance.

Post-prison support

Church-based volunteers from the national PFI member are key to providing support for the prisoner upon release. Services offered include mentoring, transitional accommodations (half-way house), support to find work and purposeful activity, and for those who desire it, an introduction to a local church.

In addition to assisting ex-prisoners with the practical challenges of re-entry into the community, a number of national PF organisations operate intensive "aftercare" programmes including residential support.

Assisting children and families of prisoners

The Angel Tree Programme is an outreach to the children of prisoners at Christmas. Members of local churches volunteer to sponsor these children by purchasing a gift based on information gathered by PF volunteers and prison chaplains.[3]

In addition to Angel Tree at Christmas, many national ministries operate programmes including camps, retreats, and a variety of year-round events and support services designed to keep the children of prisoners from becoming involved in crime.

National PF organisations in three countries operate residential facilities which provide care for more than 1000 children of prisoners.

Restorative justice

Through the 'PFI Centre for Justice and Reconciliation', PFI seeks to promote the principles and practices of restorative justice—an approach to justice focusing on healing broken relationships, repairing the damage done by crime, and restoring the offender to a meaningful role in society.

The Centre operates Restorative Justice Online and provides information and consultation to national PF organisations,[2] governments,[4] the United Nations,[5] and other organisations.

The PF restorative justice program is known as either the Sycamore Tree Project[6] or Umuvumu Tree Project.[7] Notably, in Rwanda, in response to the genocide of 1994, Prison Fellowship introduced the Umuvumu Tree Project through 11,000 traditional courts, resulting in more than 32,000 genocide offenders confessing to their crimes.[7] Twenty-three PF national ministries ran the STP in 2009.

Promoting faith-based prisons

Based on APAC, the Brazilian model of faith-based prison communities, national PF organisations are adapting their own APAC projects.These faith-based prison communities are presently operating in 16 countries.[8]


As an NGO, PFI maintains Consultative Status (Category II) with the UN Economic and Social Council[5] and is an active participant in the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.[9]

See also


  1. U.S. PVO Registry - Prison Fellowship International
  2. 1 2 PFI Website - The Mission of Prison Fellowship International
  3. The Post & Courier Angel Tree program helps give Christmas to children of inmates 26 December 2008
  4. Jamaican Ministry of Justice - Press Release 9 December 2005
  5. 1 2 United Nations Website - Description of Prison Fellowship International's ECOSOC Status
  6. New Zealand Ministry of Justice - Newsletter - Te Ara Whakatika, Winter 2004, Issue #22
  7. 1 2 Jamaican Ministry of Justice - Article Restorative Justice Transends Cultures 9 December 2005
  8. Correctional News A Matter of Choice July/Aug 2003
  9. Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice - Description of Prison Fellowship International's membership to the aforementioned organisation
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