Alternatives to Violence

I have a bit of good news. After about two months in segregation, they have moved me back to the wings. To a cell on the top floor of the wing in fact. From the dungeon to the penthouse suite!

I don’t know yet whether that whole situation is all over and dealt with, or if there are still things going on behind the scenes. But at least I’m not in solitary any more.

The whole process (witnessing the fight and then everything that followed) has made me think though. I’m fed up of the violence in these places. I’ve been inside for twelve years and I’ve seen everything from handbags at dawn to the decapitation and disembowelment of another prisoner. Sure, I’ve had a few fights myself too. I’m by no means a pacifist and I do believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves – you don’t just curl up and take a kicking. But I never start a fight and will do anything I can to avoid one starting if it’s at all possible. I’m just sick of how easily some people here seem to resort to violence. And that goes as equally for staff as it does for prisoners. I’m sick of witnessing it. I’m sick of having to deal with it myself, and I’m sick of people assuming that, as a prisoner, I must be the same.

So I’d like to draw your attention to a fantastic group who try to combat exactly that.

The Alternatives to Violence Project have been running courses for prisoners for many years now and I asked them to send me some information on their courses that I can share with you.

Facing Up to Conflict is a distance-learning course that helps you build on your strengths and develop your skills in handling conflict well. It will help you to think about the experiences from your own life, and what you can learn from them. Getting better at handling conflict doesn’t happen overnight, but the course is a good way to start. It takes six weeks to complete. We will send you one section each week by post. Each section will ask you do a small amount of writing or drawing, then experiment with new ways of handling conflict in your day to day life. When you have finished the course, you send all your work back to the Alternative to Violence Project for assessing. If you have successfully completed the course, you will receive a certificate and a review of your work from the assessors.”

Although you don’t need the permission of the prison to take part in the course (it is done entirely off the prisoner’s own bat), there are some prisons that do obstruct prisoners from applying for such courses. It seems to be the case that if the prison isn’t in control of your rehabilitation, it simply isn’t allowed. But that is only in some prisons. For that reason I have never personally been able to do the course, but I have read a fair bit about it and would definitely like to do it in the future. I would also recommend that any prisoner who genuinely wants to improve their life should at least try and apply.

If any of you reading this know anyone who might benefit from it, please send them this information. To enrol on the course they only need to send their name, prison number, and address to Freepost RSSY-BUEU-YCKR, AVP Britain, The Grayston Centre, 28 Charles Square, London N1 6HT.

If only for the selfish reason that I’m sick of seeing it, dealing with it, and being suspected of it, I would love to see more prisoners rejecting violence in favour of a more constructive process of self development.

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