AA Hospital and Institution Conferences

Man on Bed

By Roger C


The purpose of the Hospital and Institution Committee of Alcoholics Anonymous is to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to the alcoholic who is confined. Institutions are places where men and women are confined for medical, mental, corrective or rehabilitative purposes. Institutions include hospitals, jails and detoxification centers.


The initial spark of hospital work was set in motion on June 13th, 1935 when Bill W. and Dr. Bob (only three days sober at the time) made their first visit to a hospitalized alcoholic and thus found Bill D., the third member of AA.

In 1942, Warden Duffy at San Quentin State Prison noticed that 80% of the prisoners released ended up back in prison, and that alcohol was usually a contributing factor. He was aware of a group called Alcoholics Anonymous who claimed recovery from alcoholism, and invited them into San Quentin to hold meetings with the inmates. Thus H&I was born in Northern CA and San Quentin Group #1 became the first group in the Hospital and Institution Committee.

With regular meetings in San Quentin the parole figures suddenly dropped from (its) usual return rate… Seeing this success, Folsom Prison also clamored for AA and in 1943, in an unprecedented action of the Prison Board, inmate Ricardo volunteered and was permitted to transfer from San Quentin, a relatively progressive medium security facility to Folsom Prison, a hardened maximum security facility just north of Sacramento, for the sole purpose of helping to start AA there. AA work in jails, prisons and penitentiaries began to take hold in Northern California as well as in other states across the country, and later that year Bill W. visited Northern California and was a guest speaker at both prisons, an experience which he found profoundly moving.

In an article for the special issue of The AA Grapevine commemorating AA’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Warden Clinton Duffy, who was by then a member of the California Parole Board, said the following of Alcoholics Anonymous in prisons:

The AA program is presented in a humble and humane manner, without high-pressure frills. This is the approach necessary to reach the man who has developed a highly suspicious nature. It helps him to face truth and reality, without self-pity or dodging of responsibility. It rids him of fears, hates, jealousies and suspicions that have been his for so long. He learns to eliminate his drinking – to fight the urge, the desire – to get help and Fellowship from his AA friends.

In 2005 the 25-millionth copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous was presented to Jill Brown, Warden of San Quentin Prison, in commemoration of the historic role San Quentin played in the development of Hospital and Institution work in AA.

This abbreviated history was copied from The Northern California Hospital and Institute Committee website

Southern California

H I Southern CaliforniaThe 38th Southern California Hospital and Institution Conference will be held on Friday, April 5 to Sunday, April 7 in Ventura, California. For more details, please click on the image on the right.

Here are some program highlights:

  • Corrections Panel
  • Keynote Speaker: Ralph Diaz;  Secretary of Calif. Dept. of Corrections/Rehab.
  • Sunday Morning Speakers: Former Inmates/Parolees at Fire Camp
  • Young People Panel
  • Spanish Panel
  • Most Memorable Moments in Hospital and Institution
  • Parole Officers and New Programs in CA Panel
  • Saturday Night AA Banquet

Northern California

Northern California H IThe 46th annual Northern California Hospital and Institution Conference will be held Friday, May 3 to Sunday, May 5 in Vallejo, California. For more details, please click on the image on the right.

Again, here are some of the program highlights:

  • Speaker, Brian F., North Fork, CA
  • Panel – Young People in AA, Young, Sober, and no longer confined!
  • Professional Panel – Treatment
  • Professional Panel – Corrections
  • Professional Speaker, The Honorable Rogelio Flores, CA Drug Court Judge (retired)
  • Panel – Nor Cal Hospital and Institution Committee, “Where We…
    …Have Been” – Jeffrey N., H&I Historian
    …Are At Now” – Jeff L., H&I Co-Chair
    …Are Going in the Future” – Karen C., H&I Chairperson
  • Speaker, Terri K., Woodville, Ohio
  • Entertainment, Festering Resentments
  • Panel – Sober Behind the Walls, Free on the Inside!
  • Speaker, Jamie H., Martinez, CA

You can register by clicking here: Pre-register Today!


This post is here today because of an email received from Debbie O about the Northern California Conference. As she put it:

The H & I conference is interesting because we invite professionals that work with alcoholics to come and share their experience with us, such as the Honorable Rogelio Flores, a retired Drug Court Judge.  We also have professional panels, that have speakers from treatment facilities, correction facilities, as well as, past inmates that received the message of AA on the inside.  In addition, we have some wonderful AA speakers sharing their experience, strength and hope.  Saturday night we will have the Festering Resentments, along with a comedian.  It’s a wonderful and cheap way to spend the weekend!

Both of these conferences do indeed look fascinating. And, yes, it is particularly impressive to see the inclusion of professionals as speakers and panel members. That’s something of a rarity in AA…

So, if you wish to attend either: do register now!

2 Responses

  1. bob k says:

    My father was an old-fashioned AA guy who, when his eldest son started attending meetings, was much more delighted about all that than I was at the time. He (wisely) stayed out of my recovery, but he gave me some valuable tips about the broad range of service opportunities available to AA members.

    I never did prison work, primarily because I was weak on the identification factor. People who were once inmates somewhere clearly are in a better position to grab the attention those currently confined. I have done probation meetings without ever being on probation, and I’ve brought meetings to an east Toronto detox facility although I got sober without medical detox. Nonetheless, I stand by the earlier remark.

    We all identify in the degree that we are alcoholics, but there are other important areas of potential SPECIAL identification. I see nothing wrong in that.

    Last night I was at what we think is Canada’s first ever secular LGBTQ meeting. People who’ve suffered that double stigma, as it can be felt in traditional AA meetings, are the best ones to describe the experience of that. I know the secular part; others know the LGBTQ component. Now there’s a gathering of those familiar with both. As an aging hippie, I see that as pretty damn cool.

    Many long-time AA members found sobriety in meetings held in prison and jails. Pat P. used to announce an annual dinner, for inmates and outside AA people, that was held in the Kingston Pen. He’s always mention that the dinner was NOT followed by a dance. 😉 My best wishes for continued go out to those involved in this brand of AA service. It’s valuable work.

  2. John F. says:

    Great presentation of an important part of AA’s history. Thanks to AA, I have been in more jails as a visitor than as an inmate. (And I am happy to see the quote from Ernie K every time I read AA Agnostica.)