First Day Program Focuses on Curbing Violence

A First Day program on Nov. 25 highlighted the Alternatives to Violence Project, which gives prison inmates and residents of crime-plagued communities skills and insights that reduce bloodshed and aggression.

Since 1975, AVP has begun operating in 111 prisons in 31 states, providing workshops that offer inmates the means to transform conflict in their lives to something positive, said Carolyn Schodt, a volunteer with the non-profit organization. http://www.avpusa.org/

Though AVP is not a Quaker organization, its activities follow traditions dating back to when early Friend Elizabeth Fry provided fellowship with inmates at Newgate Prison in London, Schodt said.

Workshops with prison inmates, students at troubled schools and residents of violent communities create an atmosphere of trust and respect that allow participants to reflect deeply on their lives and the things that “trigger” their own aggression, said Schodt, who is currently working with inmates of Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania and students at a school in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

“Barriers fall, and people are left with their humanity,” Schodt said, after screening a powerful 15-minute video (http://vimeo.com/37108812) on the program.

In the video, inmates who have completed the program spoke about the impact it’s had on their lives and their newfound willingness to solve differences peacefully.

Inmates exposed to the program have often suggested that it be offered to families in their home communities, and the families in turn have recommended that it be offered in the schools, Schodt said.

Members of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee and other members in attendance at the First Day program expressed enthusiasm for the workshops and a willingness to explore future involvement with the organization.

Submitted by Sarah Greenblatt

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