Click here to watch the video “AVP-USA: Belly of the Beast,”
a documentary about an AVP workshop in prison.
The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is a training program enabling participants to deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways. Workshops are run by our trained facilitators and are experiential (not based on lectures).
AVP started in prisons in the U.S.A. in 1975, and now also operates in communities, schools, colleges and conflict situations worldwide. We run workshops in prisons, communities, schools, colleges and refugee camps around the world. AVP has done work in over 50 countries, 35 U.S. states, and is in 110 prisons throughout the U.S. We have provided tens of thousands of workshops impacting hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Our workshops use the shared experience of participants, interactive exercises, games and role-plays to examine the ways in which we respond to situations where injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behavior and violence.
An AVP workshop can help you to:
- manage strong feelings such as anger and fear
- deal more effectively with risk and danger
- build good relationships with other people
- communicate well in difficult situations
- recognize the skills you already have and learn new ones
- be true to yourself while respecting other people
- understand why conflict happens
The Alternatives to Violence Project began in 1975 after a group of inmates at
Greenhaven Prison in NY formed a group called the “Think Tank”. They were interested in helping young community offenders keep from spending most of their lives within the prison system, as they were. They were looking to develop a program which would teach these youth how to resolve conflicts nonviolently. Members of the Think Tank approached Quakers involved in a visitors program to help them in this effort. A number of the men and women involved in the Quaker Project on Community Conflict responded to their request and together they researched what was being done across the country and around the world. Drawing on lessons from Gandhi, the civil rights movement, the Children’s Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) program and elsewhere the first workshop was put together for Greenhaven in 1975, with assistance of Dr. Bernard Lafayette (a nonviolence trainer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and Lawrence Apsey, a Quaker.
The success of the AVP workshop quickly spread by word of mouth. More workshops
were offered, and the program spread rapidly throughout the New York State prison
system. Within a few years, it had spread to other prison systems throughout the country.
Workshops began to be offered, not only in prisons, but in communities and schools, and
also for some businesses, churches, community associations, street gangs, and in
women’s shelters and other locales. It was not long before it workshops were being done in numerous countries around the world. AVP has done workshops now in over 50 countries and 35 states.
AVP workshops are experiential. There is no lecturing or homework. Participants learn through the shared experiences of the group, interactive exercises, large and small group discussions, games and role-plays to examine the ways in which we respond to situations where injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behavior and violence. Participants learn to engage conflict in constructive productive ways.
AVP workshops work by creating a strong sense of community and trust among participants and then generating empathy, compassion
There are three levels of workshops:
- Second Level (Advanced)
- Training for Facilitators
Individuals generally do one basic workshop and are then free to take as many advanced workshops as they wish. Advanced workshops customarily focus on one principle issue usually selected by the participants. Commonly chosen topics include Anger, Conflict, Communication, Race, Masculinity, Male-Female Communication, and Triggers. We also have several special advanced workshops dealing with Trauma, Shame or Community Discernment.
A full AVP workshop is 18 typically to 23 hours long. Community workshops typically begin on a Friday afternoon or evening and run through the weekend. AVP workshops have profound long lasting impact, changing long term behavior and thinking. For example a study has shown AVP participants in prison have a near 50% lower recidivism rate – measured three years after release from prison.
As one inmate participant put it: “You can’t unlearn this stuff!”