Sometimes, the best ideas we can offer you and your loved one is a story. So, this is a story about a prisoner in the system who decided early in his life sentence that he would find a way to do more with the limited opportunities and programs offered to him as an imprisoned young man.
The first thing he did was get his GED, which is no easy task. While he accomplished that, he found other individuals in prison that also wanted to learn and respected the idea of wisdom as an ability to orchestrate significant positive life path changes. This ideology led him to an available program, one used worldwide, and in most prisons in the United States, the Alternatives to Violence Project.
What is AVP?
“The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is a volunteer-run conflict transformation program. Teams of trained AVP facilitators conduct experiential workshops to develop participants’ abilities to resolve conflicts without manipulation, coercion, or violence.”
Moving Through AVP
He took the program very seriously. He found himself reading about some of the techniques he was learning utilizing the library, articles the facilitators gave him, and books his friends would lend him.
When he completed the program, he asked the community volunteers and prisoners involved what he could do to become a facilitator himself. At that point, he realized something significant: he had never chased after anything that didn’t have a materialistic value. Yet, in a blink of an eye, he went after a high school equivalency and wanted to facilitate a program to help others.
Becoming a Facilitator
His request wasn’t accepted right away, and many other prisoners told him that is how the system is and to live with it. He was invited to pass his time playing cards, gambling, even partying. Negativity began to fly his way like turkey vultures to a carcass.
His outside support, his girlfriend, and others told him to stay positive and remain focused. He remained positive and soon found himself tutoring others on the tier he lived on and recommending people try the AVP program. He continued to write to the community volunteers and talked to the prisoners involved in the organization, and reminded them he was interested in being a facilitator. His hard work was eventually rewarded, and he was trained as a facilitator.
After becoming a facilitator, he became a paid tutor for the GED school. He and some other inmates started a youth program to help younger inmates in all aspects of life and he became a columnist for the prison newsletter. He took his facilitation work very seriously and even added some correspondence courses on counseling. He eventually attended Coppin State University until the grant that was paying for it was removed.
He joined any program he could and excelled. He also facilitated whenever he could, and as a result, his parole packet soon filled with certificates and accolades.
Dealing with Change
When he was moved to another prison, he was worried that he no longer had the AVP program. He turned again to those that were home serving time with him, and they kept his head up. With his loved one’s strength and support, soon enough, he found his way and joined the volunteer community/inmate program called the Breaking Bad Habits program.
This time he was immediately invited to become a facilitator upon completing the program, a positive difference from when he was starting his sentence and had to claw for everything. The cognitive skills he facilitated positively impacted many other incarcerated individuals. With the social worker’s help, the incarcerated facilitators could test and be given an official Certified Peer Recovery Specialists credential.
He now helps with the special needs tier specifically and has since added a certificate through a Traumatic Stress Organization, which gives him more facilitating abilities. Twenty-five years later, and still incarcerated, he has helped many, and now has a chance to go back to school.
This incarcerated person was lucky to have support from the outside to pick him up when he was down and he made the most of it. When you serve time together, you are taking on the pain and remaining optimistic, allowing your loved one to make progress where possible. A story like this one hopefully proves the difference you can make.