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Today about 100 of us AVPers from around the world were invited into Wheatfield Prison meet with 12 inmate facilitators. It was my first bright sun-flecked day in Ireland and the inmate testimonies were even more amazing. We heard from the jail administration who were called governors, and we appreciated many of these men who have a life sentence. Their gardens, metalwork, art and woodworking were all impressive. The garden inside Wheatfield had foxgloves, bleeding hearts, and huge coneflowers. Here’s what I learned from some of them:

<+>Brightness Brian said before AVP I was totally broken up inside. AVP saved my life. It introduced me to adult education. Now i’m in the third year of the Open University. I trained to be a first responder with the Red Cross.

<+>Good Gary said before AVP I was always fighting. After the workshops I openned my eyes to how my fighting was affecting myself and other people. I now help others in prison and hope to open a gym of my own when I get out.

<+>Randy Rossy said at first I had a problem with authority officers telling me what to do. After AVP I see that I’m happier. I started work with the Red Cross in its program called Weapons Amnesty. There were 2 months when in Ireland we had ‘no slashings.’ Slashing is cowardly.

<+>Dandy Dane stated before AVP I was impulsive and quick to react in violence. AVP taught me to take a step back and evaluate the situation. Also now I get both sides of a story before acting violently. AVP makes me more calm and relaxed. I’m doing the building lives program.

<+>Noble Niall said before I was considered a difficult prisoner and always in trouble. After AVP I had ways to deal with issues. I began on the road to a better attitude. AVp makes me want to grow as a person. To be a facilitator is something that would not have been possible years ago.

I have so much to learn about how to forgive, how to be courageous, and how to become genuinely myself.  I learn a lot about freedom in prison.