Physical altercations can be common in correctional institutions. To provide new strategies for dealing with conflict, AFSC established the Friend of a Friend mentoring project which now operates in three sites in Maryland. The goal is to reduce institutional violence by providing tools that build healthy relationships, create support structures, and develop effective communication skills.
Conflict resolution training is the primary activity for the group. Weekly meetings focus on anger management, and conflict, communication and coping skills. New participants work with a mentor to identify their own values, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses. They analyze problems and potentially frustrating scenarios, determine alternative solutions, and decide upon a healthy course of action. Role playing makes the sessions more realistic.
D.R.A.M.A. started at the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC) and has expanded into Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI). This theater-based project encourages participants to acquire news skills through doing. Using role-playing and skits, they learn to build healthy relationships, create support structures, and develop effective communication skills.
At weekly sessions, participants use storytelling to bring differences that cause conflict to the surface. Guided by facilitators, they learn to analyze situations and potential problems, and identify possible interventions and resolutions. Participants learn positive ways to handle disputes that occur inside the prison and those that may arise once they return to “the outside.” The end result is skits that cover real life situations.
Participants complete the program by organizing a performance of the skits for the prison population. This reinforces the skills and techniques the participants have learned, as well as exposing the broader audience to conflict resolution. For example, in 2009 at JCI, The Birth of Peace was presented, an anti-violence play addressing the gang issue. About 150 men came to the production, most of whom were active gang members.