January 30, 2008

Calif. prison anti-violence program needs volunteers

This invitation comes from Dr. Jay Adams, a psychologist who is retired from the California Department of Corrections:
The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) began 33 years ago at a prison in New York, when a prisoner group sought help from the Quakers in how to communicate their message about the consequences of violence to youth gangs and at-risk teenagers.

Since that modest inception, AVP has expanded to offer workshops in prisons all over the United States and even internationally. Research has shown that the intervention can dramatically reduce both recidivism and prison misconduct.

AVP workshops train participants in how to lead nonviolent lives through affirmation, mutual respect, community building, cooperation and trust. AVP is based on the belief that there is a power for peace and good in everyone, and that this power can transform violence. It builds upon a spiritual base of respect and caring for self and others.

As a psychologist at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, I was involved in the initial efforts to bring AVP into the prison. Now CMC is about to celebrate 7 years of AVP, and I have been able to participate as a facilitator since retiring from CDCR. One of the most inspiring things about this experience is to see men of different racial backgrounds share a safe space and open up to each other. Many wardens and other state officials have recognized the value of AVP, so that we are now active in 11 prisons and are being invited into more.

We want to be able to meet this need and are seeking more community volunteers. AVP is not something you study, but something you do. No need to take notes or memorize anything. You can take AVP workshops purely for your own personal growth or to become a facilitator in your community or in a California prison.

A Basic workshop is scheduled for February 22-24 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Santa Barbara, and another is planned in the Fresno area. AVP will even help you find housing if you need it.

For more information on the workshops, email Genie or call her at (805) 565-1887. The
AVP/California website has more information on the program.