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Group talks to prisoners, youth about reducing violence

Volunteers with the Alternatives To Violence Project are seen.

A group in Kern County is taking a nonconventional approach when it comes to reducing violence.

The Alternatives to Violence Project is targeting youth and incarcerated people.

Mac McGinty was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison but attributes his early release and lifestyle change to help from AVP.

"I have been in the California state state penitentiary for the past 25 years," he said. "I have been out 90 days as of Monday."

AVP is focused on reducing violence through communication training and conflict resolution workshops. Cathy Clark is an outreach coordinator with AVP and said the group has a unique message.

"What this workshop does it gives them a vacation" she said. "They are able to forget that there are different races, and that there are different categories and groups and sections on the yard."

Clark said the different prisons they have visited have seen a shift in culture.

"The violence has gone down 40 percent to 80 percent. Recidivism has gone down 40 percent for inmates. That is the average number for return citizens," said Clark.

Willie Nichols has been working with the youth in Kern County for more than 10 years. He joined AVP because he said the group leaders understand the youth on a personal level.

"We do a lot of youth programs," he said. "We try to get kids to redirect their anger into sports. AVP is kind of a different way of doing it."

As for McGinty, he said he is choosing a different path for the rest of his life.

"On the outside, this has taught me how to be a better citizen, how to treat others. It has given me all the tools I need to get back into society," McGinty said.

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