Two male inmates made a beeline for me as I stood alone at the edge of the classroom during the final session of a Basic workshop in Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. Unlike others who milled around during the break, these men – one black, one Hispanic - made eye contact and moved very purposefully toward me. What’s this about, I wondered briefly.
“Will you do something for us?” they asked, almost in unison. Uh-oh, I thought. Here comes a request that is bound to break the no-personal-contact rule of AVP. But they surprised me.
The African-American prisoner came right to the point. “You take AVP into the Youth Facility in Chino, right? We met there.” His Latino friend chimed in, “Yeah, we both got in trouble when we were kids. And now we’re behind bars for life. Here’s what we want you to do, OK?”
“Next time you go to Chino, will you give those guys a message from two lifers? Tell them that we didn’t have any AVP when we were young. Tell them to pay attention, and then to use what they’ve learned when they get back out on the streets. Tell them that AVP bonds guys together better than gangs do, that AVP even trumps race. Tell them that if we’d learned AVP and used it when we were their age, we wouldn’t be in prison for the rest of our lives.”