By Lt. Everardo Silva, AA/PIO
Calipatria State Prison

IMG_8575Inmates at Calipatria State Prison attended an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Workshop to learn ways to deal with troubling situations that change lives.

“The AVP gives inmates tools they can use to change themselves and their violent behavior,” said Self Help Sponsor Cheryl Livsey.

IMG_8574Participants learn new ways to react to potentially violent situations and new ways to respond to conflict and frustration, said Livsey. This particular support group meets every other Saturday and has become very popular at Calipatria State Prison.  There are 100 participants involved and 100 more on the waiting list.

The group of male inmates listened intently while Raul Martinez apologized for not being present in his daughter’s life.  He apologized for taking to the streets and turning to drugs like methamphetamine instead of raising his daughter. Martinez finally apologized for not setting a proper example for his daughter who has now started using methamphetamines. “If I ever get out of here, I plan to right my wrongs,” said Martinez as he ended his apology.

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AVP is a program that began in 1975 and now conducts workshops nationwide in prisons and in the communities. AVP builds upon a spiritual base of respect and caring for self and others.

The program has made its way into Calipatria State Prison this year because of research that has shown a 60 percent reduction in write-ups and a 50 percent reduction in recidivism three years after release according to Warren L. Montgomery, Warden at Calipatria State Prison. “Inmates who participate in AVP help prevent individual violence by supporting one another as they face daily challenges,” said Warden Montgomery.

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AVP participant and facilitator Jacob Mata is an ex-gang member who learned the habits of crime after his parents divorced. He sought to find a family that would give him shelter, so he turned to the streets. “I’ve known my wife since I was 11”, said Mata, who is serving a life sentence with a chance for parole. “She noticed that I have become a better communicator. My father even came to visit and told me he was happy that I have something here that is helping me become a better person.”

Through AVP, Mata has been able to become aware of the ways his actions have hurt his family and he’s thought about his victims countless times since.

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The program extends outside of the workshop to help inmates on the yard deal with situations which would lead to violence as inmates mentor and support one another in ways to defuse hostile situations, said Mata.

During the workshop AVP participant Antonio Leevy carries the red mascot “Tedy, “ in show of his reminder to all that he has learned to handle situations with the tools he has learned in the workshop.

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