Kairos Prison Ministry International's primary service is retreat programming, including providing speakers and volunteers for small groups. The ministry also arranges for volunteers to be in contact with inmates they have connected with either by mail or by meeting in small groups after the Kairos weekend.
Kairos Prison Ministry ministers to three distinct groups of people: incarcerated adults, incarcerated juveniles and the families of the incarcerated. These programs are named Kairos Inside, Kairos Torch, and Kairos Outside, respectively.
Kairos' main ministry is to the inmates themselves. The program consists of two parts: the Kairos weekend and follow-up. During the weekend, volunteers provide programming including speakers, small groups and fellowship building. Following the weekend, participants meet with small groups on a weekly basis to reinforce crucial lessons such as accountability, encouragement and prayer. Kairos volunteers attend these sessions as able to provide discipleship and mentoring.
The original three day "short course in Christianity" inside a prison was held at Union Correctional Institution at Raiford, Florida in 1976. It was then known as Cursillo in Prison. After just two years, the program had expanded to six states. The program was redesigned and renamed in 1979.
Kairos Prison Ministries expanded in 1989 to the families of inmates when a chaplain at the San Quentin State Correctional Facility in California determined that incarcerated Kairos participants would be open to reuniting with their families. Kairos responded by creating a program tailored to the needs of the family members, and Kairos Outside was launched in April 1990.
Kairos added its third program, Kairos Torch, in September 1997 at a youth facility in Oklahoma. Kairos Torch was developed uniquely to address young people who were incarcerated or in juvenile detention.
As of 2015, Kairos has a full-time staff of just nine people but over 36,000 volunteers.