Our History

How We Began

In the 1970s, a group of inmates at Greenhaven Prison in New York who had witnessed the Attica riots were also concerned with the “revolving door” they saw in their institution. Youth were appearing in prison for fairly minor offenses, only to return—sometimes multiple times—for increasingly more serious and violent crimes.

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That era saw conflict on our streets regarding the Vietnam War. The Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) were active in Greenhaven and known for their non-violence training and intervention against the backdrop of the war demonstrations. Together, the inmates and the Quakers developed non-violence workshops, with the involvement of people like inmate Eddie Ellis (who later became nationally recognized for his work on prison reform) and Bernard Lafayette (an associate of Martin Luther King Jr.). The first workshop took place at Greenhaven in 1975.

The early workshops worked and were improved upon, drawing from diverse material and philosophy of other programs working in the non-violence field. The effectiveness of the workshops had obvious benefit to prison staff and word spread in their circles, culminating in a widespread demand and eventual spread throughout the New York prison system.

AVP is a nationwide and worldwide association of volunteer groups offering experiential workshops in conflict resolution, responses to violence and personal growth. Today, AVP-USA supports workshops in 35 states and the Alternatives to Violence Project International facilitates them in more than 40 countries.