The first three day “short course in Christianity” inside a prison was held at Union Correctional Institution at Raiford, Florida in the fall of 1976. It was called Cursillo in Prison. By 1978, six states were presenting a Cursillo short course in prisons. The national Cursillo office determined these Cursillo in Prison ministries should be supervised by a central authority and that their format be modified to more closely align with inmate needs. Cursillo asked the Florida group to design such a program. Nine volunteers, today affectionately referred to as the “nine old men,” redesigned the program and renamed it “Kairos,” which is Greek for Godʼs Special Time. The first ”Kairos” weekend was presented in 1979. Following that first weekend, the Cursillo office directed other areas doing Cursillo in Prison to stop using the Cursillo name and join Kairos. This program is now called Kairos Inside.
In 1989 a chaplain at the San Quentin State Correctional Facility in California sensed that incarcerated Kairos participants were now open to reuniting with their family. The chaplain asked Kairos to create a program that would minister to the female family members of the incarcerated. In April1990 the second of the Kairos programs, Kairos Outside (KO), held their first weekend in Northern California.
The third Kairos program, Kairos Torch, had its first weekend in September of 1997 at a youth facility in Oklahoma. Kairos Torch was developed uniquely to address young people (25 and under) experiencing incarceration. With the help of volunteers trained in mentoring, Torch encourages the youthful offenders to recognize their God-given potential and helping them develop the skills necessary for a productive life; giving them hope for the future.
Today Kairos Inside, Kairos Outside and Kairos Torch is supported by a staff of 9 and has over 36,000 volunteers donating more than three (3) million hours of service each year. These volunteers serve in over 400 institutions and 55 KO communities in 35 states and 9 countries: Costa Rica, Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Each year over 25,000 inmates and their family members are introduced to God's love, grace and forgiveness through Kairos.