How can violence be reduced in prison? Well, in my own opinion, the answer is simple: support the "Alternative to Violence Project!" This program, started by Quaker's back in the late 1970's right here at Green Haven Correctional Facility, is one which is now being used to combat the spread and use of violence all over the world.
The Alternative to Violence Project (from this point on, to be referred to as A.V.P.) is an interactive workshop, that gives insight to its staff (facilitators) and guest, simultaneously, as to how to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. The heart of A.V.P. is to gain a positive outcome from a negative occurrence. This technique is known to use as "Transforming Power."
There are twelve "Guides to Transforming Power." They are:
1) Seek to resolve conflicts by reaching for common ground.
2) Reach for that which is good in others.
3) Listen before making judgements.
4) Base your position in truth.
5) Be ready to revise your position, if it is wrong.
6) Expect to experience great inward power to act.
7) Risk being creative rather than violent.
8) Use surprise and humor.
9) Learn to trust your inner sense of when to act.
10) Be willing to suffer for what is important.
11) Be patient and persistent.
12) Build community based on honesty, respect, and caring.
These guides are used throughout the A.V.P. process. The process of A.V.P. is, first a basic class, which lasts three days, an advanced class, which also lasts three days and, lastly, the Training for Facilitation class, which is also a three day session. At each stage of the process, there are steps taken to help us realize, how, in past situations that led to conflicts, we could have done things differently, using Transforming Power, to have solved that conflict without resorting to violence.
The A.V.P. has offered to us, prisoners, activities that, while they are sometimes fun and/or enjoyable, helps us to explore our inner selves and discover what has caused us to turn to violence as an answer to our problems with others. While I have kept this writing in regard to prisoners, A.V.P. is not just a program for prisoners and/or ex offenders. A.V.P. also offers these groups to the people in society as well, who have never been incarcerated. Many of these civilians come into the facilities and go through this process with us.
These activities include: Light and Livelies (Lively's), which are fun activities, incorporated to lighten the moods of the group, after session that touch participants emotionally or after gatherings that touch on subjects that get participants emotionally involved. Gatherings, which are questions asked to each of the participants, pertaining to subjects of all kinds. Role plays, which puts participants into characters involved in conflict scenarios and the participants must use the Guides to Transforming Power, to resolve their conflict nonviolently. At the end of each activity, there is a debriefing, where the participants are asked how they felt in/during participating and what they've learned and etc.
There are several sessions, which, at the end of each, is where the world "Project" comes into play. Just like at the end of every activity, at the end of every session the participants are asked questions. Only, these questions are to help improve the future sessions, if improvement needs to be made or could be made. This means, that despite the great success of the A.V.P., the "Project" is still leaving room for improvements; where necessary. In this way, the information/insight that is offered to participants, never becomes out-dated or inapplicable to the times in which those participants are in.
As an A.V.P. facilitator (junior facilitator or facilitator in training), it is my duty to live A.V.P. and not just advocate it. My guides to Transforming Power are always with me and when I'm faced with a conflict, I use the tools that A.V.P. has given me, to resolve that conflict without resorting to violence. As a result, I have not been involved in any violent (physical or otherwise) conflicts since I've been incarcerated.
Green Haven Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 4000
Stormville, N.Y. 12582-4000
If you are working on an APWA-related project, please let us know how you plan to utilize the Archive. We hope to share information about your work with our readers and, whenever possible, with relevant APWA authors.
APWA is an open access archive. We encourage use of the writings for research, course planning, and projects engaged in examination of the criminal legal system. Reproduction of essays in their entirety infringes on author copyright without their explicit consent from the writers. Please contact us if you plan to reproduce entire essays; we will do our best to put you in contact with the authors for consent, and their compensation for any project that is profit making.