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First State prison inmates find peace, anger management through AVP workshops

AVP Delaware


Peace Week Delaware - an expanded vision of peace lead by the Movement for a Culture of Peace – wraps up this weekend. Throughout the week, it shined a light on local groups and programs promoting peace.


One of them is the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). AVP Delaware co-coordinator Rachel Grier-Reynolds says the conflict-resolution workshop is used largely to help reduce recidivism among the prison population.


26-year-old Greg Lashbrook spent six years in prison for a DUI-related fatality. He had plunged into the depths of alcoholism, blacked out after work one day and got into a car accident that killed another man.


While in prison, he decided he wanted to change his lifestyle, and signed up for the Alternatives to Violence Project, or AVP.


He took both the basic and advanced workshops, and credits them for helping him move forward with his life, transcend his anger and provide coping skills.


“A peaceful and a serene and grateful alcoholic doesn’t tend to go back to drinking,” Lashbrook said.


Greg’s still on home confinement, but that ends in the next month. Greg has even become certified to lead the workshops in partnership with Project New Start, a re-entry program for individuals coming out of state and federal institutions.


Project New Start’s Executive Director Priscilla Turgon says she decided to incorporate elements of the AVP workshop into her non-profit’s 11-week program after an individual in her first class in 2013 mentioned how it worked in his life.


“He said Ms. Priscilla, there are two things that have kept me straight: this program and AVP,” Turgon said.


AVP started at Green Haven Prison in upstate New York in 1975 and  has been proven to reduce violent attitudes, inappropriate behavior and recidivism.


Grier-Reynolds notes outside of the U.S. AVP mostly helps reconcile communities. She and her husband helped facilitate community reconciliation between Croats and Serbs using AVP in Croatia.


“The first night I looked around our circle and said to myself, there’s no way these people four years earlier are killing each other, raping and burning each other’s houses, there’s no way they’re going to be able to come together," Grier-Reynolds said.


She was amazed at how quickly they were able to move past the anger and violence associated with the war there. She says it’s the process of working together that creates change.


In the U.S. alone, there have been over 15,000 AVP workshops held, impacting over 230,000 individuals. 85% of the workshops took place in prisons.


A series of basic AVP workshops will be held Friday September 30th – Sunday October 2nd at the First Unitarian Church in Wilmington. Lashbook will help lead another workshop in partnership with Project New Start October 3rd – 5th

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