Prison of Peace is a non-profit organization, established in 2010, in order to reduce violence and promote peaceful conflict resolution among prison inmates.
Prison of Peace was created by professional mediators Laurel Kaufer, Esq. and Douglas E. Noll, Esq. at the request of life and long-term inmates at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA, led by Susan Russo, one of our fifteen peacemakers, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Beginning her quest in 2007, Ms. Russo wrote over 50 handwritten letters from prison to mediators all over California. Her letters went unanswered until August of 2009 when one of her letters made it to Laurel Kaufer, Esq., a well-known Southern California mediator and peacemaker and founder of the post-Katrina Mississippi Mediation Project. “As soon as I read the letter, I was hooked, but also knew that I couldn’t do it alone. Still standing at the mailbox, I called my friend and colleague, Doug Noll,” said Ms. Kaufer. "I read the letter to him. He was silent for a moment before he said, ‘I’m in. What’s our next step?’”
The story is one of personal commitment to themselves and the community in which many of these women were sentenced to live out their lives. “This is an environment filled with conflict and violence. There is a dire need and want for change,” said Susan Russo, “Mediation interests all of us because we are lifers and long-termers hoping to make a difference in teaching our peers that there is a better way.
Prison for Peace launched in 5 California facilities thus far, including, Valley State Prison for Women, Valley State Prison, Central California Women's Facility, California Institute for Women, and Century Regional Detention Facility.
500+ - Over 500 Peacemakers and/or Mediators have graduated from the Prison of Peace program, with over 125 released from custody.
15,000+ - Prison of Peace Peacemakers and Mediators have engaged over 15,000 fellow inmates in peacemaking and conflict resolution processes.
Thus far, there has been no recidivism reported among those Prison of Peace alumni who have been released.