It started with a letter...
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.”