This is only a sampling of the feedback from the Living Values Activities for Young Offender (LVAYO) graduates. The feelings they leave the sessions with are of being accepted, respected and valued, an atmosphere that is created by competent trainers, who pay attention to their values and live their values.
Description of LVAYO Activities
Living Values Activities for Young Offenders weaves in values activities on peace, respect, love, cooperation, honesty, humility and happiness, with lessons related to crime, violence, drug use, gang involvement, negative influences and concomitant emotional issues, along with the building of social and relapse-prevention skills. This approach is based on Living Values Education Program's methodology. Educators are asked to create a values-based atmosphere. Participants are encouraged to explore and develop values in a group-facilitated process by first exploring their own dreams for a better world. Lessons on peace and respect build self-confidence and a supportive values-based atmosphere in the group, prior to beginning choice-related lessons in which participants are asked to explore and share their journey into crime and the consequences in their lives. The 103 activities include experiences to help them deal with their pain, and learn life-lessons. Positive intrapersonal and interpersonal social skills are taught, encouraged and practiced. Participants explore many aspects of their experiences and build relapse-prevention skills through discussion, art, role-playing and dramas.
It is also important for the entire staff at the facility to receive an LVE orientation which includes an explanation of the LVAYO program and the LVE Theoretical Model. Additional workshops are highly recommended. Of course, the facility's regular disciplinary procedures apply when young offenders violate the rules. However, the young offenders and entire staff will be able to shift to a new way of interacting more easily if the entire staff is willing to engage in acknowledging and reinforcing positive behaviors, and dealing out consequences for negative behavior in a firm but respectful manner. They must also understand that change will be gradual, and that many young offenders, like abused children, will test out the adults' commitment to a respectful and fair way of interacting even after change has begun.
Time: Ninety minutes a week is the minimum amount of time suggested for LVAYO lessons; more time is recommended. While our internal research shows that 90 minutes is the critical time needed to achieve student "buy-in", for a marginalized population, more time is much better as they usually do not have the emotional skills needed to maintain a positive outlook.
Chapters Three though Eight of the LVAYO book contain the activities. The lessons are designed to be done in sequential order as concepts are gradually introduced and developed, as are intrapersonal and interpersonal social and emotional skills.
1. Buying into Values.
Begin with the 20 LVE activities in Chapter Three.These 20 activities will take 75 to 90 minutes, depending on the facilitator and the size of the group. It is recommended that the first eight lessons be done during the initial orientation period. For example, if your facility has a two-week orientation for newly admitted young offenders, please do Lessons 1 though 8 during that time. Doing the lessons within a short period of time will allow the young offenders to understand the new norms they are being asked to comply with, and hopefully feel safe enough to let go of some of their negative defensive behaviors. This will be very helpful when they are integrated into a facility already implementing LVAYO. While this is preferable, an alternative is to do three lessons a week for the first three weeks, and then taper off to two lessons a week for the remaining time.
It is recommended that all young offenders in the facility receive the LVAYO lessons when the program is being introduced. It is much easier for young people to transfer their new behaviors of peace and respect outside of the classroom if their peers are making similar efforts and have the same conflict resolution skills. If they are trying their new values-based behaviors, and trounced for it by several older young people not in the program, they will be discouraged.
If a young offender completes the 20 lessons in Chapter One and will be leaving the facility within two weeks, skip to Chapter Eight for the relapse prevention lessons.
2. Drug Use or Abuse
If the young offenders have a drug use or abuse problem, continue with the activities in Chapter Four. If not, skip to Chapter Five.
These activities are taken from Living Values Activities for Drug Rehabilitation. Each lesson will take 90 minutes. Many of the concepts needed were already introduced in the first 20 lessons.
3. Building Skills Towards Kindness and Control
These values lessons include building more understanding of their emotions, and beginning skills for self-control and positivity. Continue with the activities in Chapter Five. These values activities will take 75 to 90 minutes, depending on the facilitator and the size of the group.
Please note: If the young person will be leaving the facility within two weeks, always skip to Chapter Eight for the relapse prevention activities.
4. Growing in Understanding and As a Family
If the young offenders are 17 and younger, continue with the activities in Chapter Six. These activities will take 45 to 60 minutes depending on the facilitator and the size of the group. It is highly recommended that three lessons be done each week.
This chapter contains an adapted version of the Street-Children Family Stories from Living Values Activities for Street Children Ages 11-14. Educators using these materials have helped tens of thousands of street children, and they have been successful with incarcerated street youth in Brazil in reducing violence. The stories deal with many topics, yet have a story line that seems to nurture young people and change their perception and behavior. The stories impart the values of caring and respect, and help young people become educated about and/or learn self-protective skills in the areas of physical and sexual abuse, violence, HIV/AIDS, dealing with unsafe adults, drug dealers, corruption, and death.
5. Growing in Values and Stability
Continue with the activities in Chapter Seven. These values activities will take 75 to 90 minutes, depending on the facilitator and the size of the group.
This set of lessons expands their understanding of their stress response, what creates their own positive or negative spiral, and the values of love, humility and honesty while continuing to build communication skills.
6. Relapse Prevention
Chapter Eight contains 12 relapse prevention activities. All young offenders should do these activities before leaving the facility, except those who have not completed the first 20 lessons in Chapter One. (They should continue with the lessons in Chapter Three.) These lessons take 90 minutes. They may be done daily.
It is fine to have in the relapse prevention group both students who have done many LVAYO lessons and others who have done relatively few, as the young people with more skills will be able to teach by example during role playing.
Should these activities be finished prior to the young offender being released, please continue with the values units of cooperation, happiness, responsibility, simplicity, freedom and unity in the Living Values Activities for Young Adults book. When they are due to be released, they can repeat the Relapse Prevention Activities.