Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

Influential Quakers in Crime and Justice in North America in modern times

Four North American Friends – Larry Apsey, Steve Angell, Ruth Rittenhouse Morris and Marc Forget - are singled out here because of their known, and major, contributions.  If there is someone else you think should be included, please let us know.

Larry Apsey (1902 – 1997) was a New York Quaker who was a key founder of AVP in 1975. AVP grew out of the 1960s ‘Quaker Project on Community Conflict’ (QPCC), which Larry guided for several years. Its initial aim was to train civil rights demonstrators in nonviolent approaches.  In 1964 Larry went to Mississippi as a volunteer lawyer to represent some of the many civil rights activists then under arrest, so he knew the challenges of nonviolent demonstrating very well. Other QPCC initiatives developed, many to do with handling nonviolent demonstrations against poverty, and the Vietnam draft, among others. In 1975 he led a workshop in Greenhaven Prison, New York, with prisoners who had heard of the work of QPCC, and AVP was born.

Steve Angell (1920-2011) was for many years an AVP facilitator and trainer. He was aware of AVP from the outset, as a good friend of Larry Apsey, and he hosted one of the leaders of the Greenhaven workshop that launched AVP. Steve served on the AVP board from early on, and became a practitioner himself in 1980/1, in a workshop led by Larry Apsey, in Fishkill Prison, New York. He went on to facilitate many workshops, and trained many facilitators, all over the world, saying he always learned something every time.

He soon saw that AVP was relevant to other contexts besides prisons, and could also see that there were many potential facilitators who were not Quakers. He was instrumental in widening AVP’s remit in both respects. Nowadays, AVP is used in many situations where violence is a factor, and its facilitators come from diverse religious and secular backgrounds.

Steve represented Friends in the NGO Alliance of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at the UN, and played an influential role. He chaired its working group on restorative justice, which led to the UN adopting restorative justice principles at its 2002 Congress. At the Cairo Congress in 1995, he chaired a workshop on ‘Community Involvement in Correction’.

Ruth Rittenhouse Morris (1933 – 2001) was a Canadian author and legal reformer. She was one of the world’s leading spokespersons for prison abolition. Her activism for peace, racial justice, and antipoverty causes led her naturally into the issues of the penal system.

Ruth was an active member of the Religious Society of Friends and was the Coordinator of the Canadian Friends' Service Committee in Toronto from 1975-1978. She played an active part in the Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice, which helped Canadian Quakers become the first religious body in the world to endorse prison abolition (unanimously). She was also a founder of the International Conference on Prison Abolition, which continues to this day.

Marc Forget is from Alberta, Canada. Quaker Service Canada has a standing committee on criminal justice (formerly the Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice, and now Quakers Fostering Justice) and Marc has guided its work for many years. The committee undertakes advocacy at provincial and federal levels, and Marc’s key focus is on restorative justice.

Marc is an experienced AVP facilitator, and has trained many others. He has contributed to AVP workshops in many countries.  He has run workshops in Canada, Australia and South Africa on aspects of racism, especially in relation to indigenous people.

He is also an educator.  With Meredith Egan, a colleague in the Canadian Friends Service Committee, he founded the Deep Humanity Institute, which runs peacebuilding workshops in schools and communities across Canada, and also in the US.

Print this article