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Fight crime by offering a better path for offenders | READER COMMENTARY

Andrea Cantora places the magna cum laude cords around the neck of James Ruffin III at the University of Baltimore commencement ceremony. Dr. Cantora runs the University of Baltimore Second Chance College Program that he took part in. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun).
Andrea Cantora places the magna cum laude cords around the neck of James Ruffin III at the University of Baltimore commencement ceremony. Dr. Cantora runs the University of Baltimore Second Chance College Program that he took part in. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun). (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Bravo and congratulations to James Ruffin III for his recent graduation from University of Baltimore (”His college career began at Jessup prison and finished onstage with a degree from the University of Baltimore,” Dec. 30)! No small feat considering the environment as he began his coursework. Life behind bars is often violent and depressing with few opportunities to improve your education and prepare for a more successful, crime-free life in the future. Thank goodness for the forward thinking and humane folks at UB’s Second Chance College Program that helped turn Mr. Ruffin’s life around.

We, with the Alternatives to Violence Project (www.avpusa.org), espouse the very same vision of supporting the best in everyone. AVP volunteers have been active with Maryland’s incarcerated population for over 20 years helping folks learn creative conflict resolution skills. Our experiential workshops use the shared experience of both participants and facilitators to examine how injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behavior and violence. We learn skills to use our innate power to respond in new and creative ways.

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As a powerful vehicle for a broad spectrum of social-emotional goals, AVP has been shown to reduce recidivism by almost 50%, substantially reduce trait anger and works to make participants less judgmental or prone to negative assumptions. We all want to be met with a view of our potential. AVP sees and nurtures everyone’s inner power to positively transform ourselves and, in so doing, transform the world.

No doubt Mr. Ruffin’s world has been transformed because he took the steps to recast himself. AVP affirms participants’ ability to change and transform. While our workshops have been on hold during the pandemic, we look forward to the day when AVP will again be holding in-person workshops with our brothers and sisters in prison.

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Bill Denison, Baltimore

The writer is a board member of the Alternatives to Violence Project.

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