Correction to The Fire Inside Spring 2011 Issue

In the Spring 2011 Issue of The Fire Inside newsletter (#44) we proudly reported on Suzy Mellen (VSPW) being honored with the Southern California Mediation Association?s Peacemaker Award during VSPW?s October 2, 2010 Peace-Day. We quickly heard from Suzy and from the people (Laurel Kaufer and Doug Noll) who had gone into the prison to conduct the mediation training, that Suzy Mellen was only one of 15 women at VSPW who participated in the training and received this prestigious award.
The full list of 15 Peacemaker award winners is: Barbara Chavez, Breanne Eldridge, Penny Greer, Shelbi Harris, Anna Humiston, Sara Jackson-Reynolds, Christine Loyd, Candace MacDonald, Mianta McKnight, Suzy Mellen, Betty Mills, Jan Ritchey, Susan Russo, Robyn Sotelo, and Marta Ulen.
We apologize for not listing all of those honored in our original article, but this gives us the opportunity to tell you more about this important program and the amazing efforts of the women inside VSPW committed to making significant changes in their own lives and in their entire community.
Through efforts initiated by women inside, a mediation training program was begun in Spring 2010 under the auspices of Prison of Peace (, the project created by professional mediators Laurel Kaufer, Esq. and Douglas E. Noll, Esq. at the request of lifers and long termers at VSPW. The training included 84 hours of classroom time, reading and writing assignments, and putting these new skills to work out in the prison yards and cellblocks. The topics covered include basic communication skills, restorative justice, peace circles, and mediation. People were trained to listen to what another is saying and then acknowledge what the speaker said by repeating it back. This lets the other person know that she or he is being heard, a basic part of respecting someone. Those trained are slowly reducing the conflict and violence within the prison. Rather than using pepper spray to break up a potentially violent situation, the prison guards can call on a trained ?peace maker? to help mediate the problem.
Some of the first peace makers are completing an additional 56 hours of training to become trainers themselves and are committed to training 500 more women before the end of the year.
Anyone who is currently doing or has done time, or loves someone inside, knows what a huge accomplishment it is to make a commitment to training and to changing themselves while living in such overcrowded and difficult conditions in prison. We congratulate each of you again– Barbara, Breanne, Penny, Shelbi, Anna, Sara, Christine, Candace, Mianta, Suzy, Betty, Jan, Susan, Robyn, and Marta- -and thank you for all of your work in transforming yourselves and the community on both sides of the prison walls.