Our History

Charles Colson, former aide to President Nixon, served seven months in a federal prison camp for a Watergate-related offense. There, he became convinced the real solution to crime is found through spiritual renewal. This solution grew into Prison Fellowship International, the world’s largest network of prison ministries.

  • 1976: Colson establishes Prison Fellowship in the United States.
  • 1979: Colson expands his vision outside the United States, founding Prison Fellowship International.
  • 1983: Prison Fellowship International receives special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
  • 1994: Prison Fellowship International introduces Umuvumu Tree Project in response to the Rwandan Genocide.
  • 1996: Sycamore Tree Project designed to bring victims in prison to meet with unrelated offenders to repair the harm caused by crime and make amends.
  • 2012: Prison Fellowship International launches The Prisoner’s Journey and the Children of Prisoners Program. Colson passes away, leaving a lasting legacy.
  • 2016: The Sycamore Tree Project is rebooted as Sycamore Tree Project–Justice and Peace and piloted in two countries.
  • Today: Prison Fellowship International is serving prisoners, their families, and victims of crime in 116 countries.

What makes Prison Fellowship International unique from other international Christian ministries is our focus trans-denominational, indigenous leadership and local funding. This grassroots presence enables us to minister to prisoners and their families in culturally relevant ways.


Looking for ways to help the history of PFI extend into the future?

By choosing to care for prisoners, you are helping to transform prisoners’ lives, restore them to their families, and build safer communities.

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