Whether you are just starting with AVP, have been a facilitator for a long
time and are looking at opening a new program in prison, are starting a new
community program, are wanting ideas for recruitment, communicating with
prison staff or revitalizing your local council, this organizing kit will be of
The three elements of a vital AVP program are featured in this kit:
• Community workshop program
• Local group of facilitators – Area Council
• Prison workshop program
The relationship between the community and the local prison is a crucial
part of organizing a sustainable independent program.
An effective AVP program will:
• offer regular community workshops.
• to enrich the local community.
• to train facilitators to go into prisons.
• raise money to fund the prison workshops.
• break down barriers between the prison and the local
community, while helping to reduce perceived stereotypes of the
An active local group/council of facilitators sets standards for themselves
and their workshops, creates strong, dynamic prison programs, and fosters
a vibrant local interest in developing AVP circles in schools, churches and
human service agencies.
Area council groups function as the soul and conscience of AVP, and are
the source of strength for the organization on a national and international
Once set up, holding prison workshops regularly is no problem since after
the first workshops, there will be an eager waiting list among people in the
prison. The challenges of offering workshops in the prison need to be dealt
with upfront as much as possible; the experience and ethics of the
facilitators, both incarcerated and free, are what make the program an
The challenges you will face are specific to the organization of either
community or prison workshops. When we are operating in a prison
environment, there are particular requirements that relate to working with
the Department of Corrections and the administration of each prison. In the
community there are different problems — it is harder to identify willing
participants, for example. This organizing kit will explore the different
scenarios that facilitators are likely to encounter.
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVES TO VIOLENCE PROJECT?
The Alternatives to Violence Project is a grassroots, independent,
international, volunteer movement committed to reducing interpersonal
violence in our society. AVP works toward this goal by presenting
experiential workshops in prisons, schools, and communities. AVP
workshops describe conflict-management skills that can enable individuals
to build successful interpersonal interactions, gain insights into themselves,
and find new and positive approaches to their lives.
The fundamental belief in AVP is that there is a power for peace in
everyone, available to those who are open to it. This power has the ability to
transform violence and is called “Transforming Power.” AVP builds on a
spiritual base of caring for self and others.
AVP is an experiential program , offering the opportunity for people to
change. It has a spiritual base, but does not promote any religious doctrine.
AVP is a prison program , helping incarcerated people learn new skills and
attitudes that can lead to fulfilling, crime-free lives.
AVP is a community program , offering a new approach for a variety of
community groups, social service agencies, youth organizations, and
AVP is a program for everybody regardless of race, religion, political view, or
national origin. Founded on the Quaker belief in an inborn power for
peace in everyone, it draws its participants and facilitators from all
religions, races and walks of life.
In its origins and philosophy, AVP has ties to the Religious Society of
Friends (Quakers), but from this beginning, AVP has developed into a non-
sectarian, non- political organization.
The Alternatives to Violence Project / USA, Inc. is a private non-profit
educational corporation, 501(c)(3).
HOW AVP BEGAN
The Alternatives to Violence Project began in 1975. An inmate group at
Green Haven Prison in Dutchess County, New York was engaged in work
with youth gangs and teenagers at risk. They sought assistance from the
Quaker Project on Community Conflict, and from that original partnership
of inmates and Quakers, AVP was born.
The original workshop was so successful that requests were soon
received for more. It became evident that the program designed for prison
inmates could be useful to everyone. Community people began to seek the
AVP training, and workshops are now offered in schools and in communities.
AVP currently has facilitators in well over 40 states and over 50 other
countries. The numbers keep growing.
AVP National Organization
At an International Gathering of AVP groups in September of 1990, a
national AVP organization was formed. In September of 1992, the first
National Interim Board of Directors was appointed. After the development of
bylaws and articles of incorporation, a formal Board of Directors was
appointed by the AVP/USA annual meeting in September of 1993. That
Board of Directors went on to formally adopt a policy statement in January
of 1994. Later that structure was changed to reflect AVP/ USA’s
commitment to local councils as the core of AVP/USA when a Committee of
Committees replaced the Board of Directors with each standing committee
represented on the body.
AVP Workshop Structure
AVP is an intensive learning experience, offering 18-22 hour workshops
on three levels:
The Basic Workshop
The Basic AVP workshop focuses on primary conflict management skills.
Generally, only taken once to lay the foundation of the AVP
philosophy and program.
Step-by-step experiences and exercises focus on:
• Affirmation – Building self-esteem and trust.
• Communication – Improving both listening skills and assertive
methods of expression.
• Cooperation – Developing cooperative attitudes that avoid competitive
• Creative Conflict Management – Getting in touch with the inner
“Transforming Power” to manage potentially violent situations.
Through role playing, participants learn new and creative ways to
respond to conflict situations.
The Advanced Workshop
The Advanced Workshop focuses on the underlying causes of violence and can be
repeated by participants indefinitely.
Some of the common themes explored are:
• Fear – Reveals the hidden fears that usually underlie anger, jealousy, hate, and prejudice.
• Anger – Results in a deeper understanding of the personal situations that trigger
• Communication – Develops personal listening and verbal expression skills and the
ability to communicate better in tense and stressful situations.
• Bias Awareness – Builds awareness of stereotyping, bias, and prejudices in personal
• Power and Powerlessness – Helps individuals to understand power structure and how
to get in touch with their inner power.
• Forgiveness – Builds the groundwork for true reconciliation and freedom from guilt.
In addition, Advanced Workshops are frequently designed to meet the needs of the
specific group being trained, with the theme being chosen by the group or chosen by the
team prior to the workshop.
The Training for Facilitators Workshop
The Training for Facilitators workshop focuses on team building and leadership
skills. The curriculum includes:
• Group Process Skills – Introduces leadership styles, planning for experiential
learning, and processing of exercises.
• Team Leadership Methods – Focuses on developing a team contract and
cooperative leadership styles.
• Hands-on Experience – Offers practice in planning,