Alternative to Violence Project



To empower people to lead nonviolent lives through affirmation, respect for all, community building, cooperation, and trust.

Founded in and developed from the real life experiences of prisoners and others, and building on a spiritual base, AVP encourages every person’s innate power to positively transform themselves and the world.


In the 1970’s, a group of inmates (the “Think Tank”) at Greenhaven Prison in New York had witnessed the Attica riots and were also concerned with the “revolving door” they clearly 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.

That era saw conflict on our streets around the Vietnam War.  The Society of Friends (Quakers), were active in the prison and were known to have conducted non-violence training and intervention around the war demonstrations.  Together, the inmates and the Quakers developed non-violence workshops, with the involvement ofpeople like inmate Eddie Ellis (who later became nationally recognised for his work on prison reform) and Bernard Lafayette (SNCC and CORE Freedom March activist).  The first workshop was held 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.