Back to RJ Archive

Prison Inmates to Receive Prestigious Peacemaker Award

July 29, 2010

Their story is one of personal commitment to a community in which most
are destined 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, a lifer at Valley State Prison for Women in
Chowchilla, CA, who believes that this will have a lasting affect on the
institution. . Beginning her quest in 2007, Ms. Russo wrote over 50
handwritten letters to California Mediators requesting training for
inmates. Her letters went unanswered until August of 2009 when one made
it to Laurel Kaufer.

“I read the letter and was hooked, but I couldn’t do it alone. Still at
my mailbox, I called my colleague Doug Noll, an expert in Restorative
Justice, and read him the letter,” said Kaufer. “He was silent, then
said, ‘I’m in. What next?’”

It took six months to convince authorities to permit this “pro bono”
project, which began in April, 2010. Twelve weeks later, 15 inmates were
fully trained Peacemakers and had conducted dozens of mediations and
peace circles within the prison. “Instead of running from conflict, I
now run to it,” says Peacemaker, Anna Humiston

“The secret,” said Kaufer, “is to build skills slowly with continued
accountability throughout the process.” Every Wednesday for 10 weeks,
Kaufer drove the 500 mile round-trip, between her home in Woodland Hills
to the prison in Chowchilla. Noll, in Clovis, provided their base of

“These women have transformed. They began shut down, skeptical. They’re
now empowered and making peace within the prison,” said Noll. “This
program may make a real, systemic difference within a community.” “I
already see the difference in the Prison, as other inmates now model the
Peacemakers,” said participant Betty Mills.

Read the full article.    


Blog PostCourtsNorth America and CaribbeanPolicePrisonsRestorative PracticesRJ and the WorkplaceRJ in SchoolsRJ OfficeStatutes and LegislationTeachers and StudentsVictim Support
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now