Empowering a culture of peace within prisons.
Participants fill out evaluations after EPSS training, Peace Circles training, and Mediation training. The evaluations provide a qualitative and subjective perspective from the participants as to how they see their growth.
What has happened?
The women in this program have experienced dramatic personal transformations. Prison of Peace has allowed them to discover or re-discover their own humanity, become aware of their own emotions, and begin to understand and reflect back the emotions of others. By learning peacemaking and mediation skills, they are taught how people evade personal accountability and how to morally re-engage those who have become morally disengaged. As a byproduct, they naturally have re-engaged themselves morally.
In addition, there has been a qualitative shift in personal interactions in the inmate population. To date, there has been no reported violence involving any inmates certified as peacemakers or mediators. Personal arguments have reportedly reduced in quantity and intensity. Our Peacemakers and Mediators have been able to de-escalate and resolve conflicts among fellow inmates and between inmates and staff. To date, inmates have provided written reports documenting the completion of full Mediations, as well as numerous conflicts averted.
By the end of December 2010, 70 inmates, most with life and long- term sentences, were certified as Peacemakers, and 32 were certified as Mediators. By the end of 2011, 15 of them will have completed the rigorous process of becoming Prison of Peace Trainers, with many others acting as mentors and coaches, all of which will make the project internally self-sustaining. The inmates hope to have up to 20 percent of the general population trained as Peacemakers and Mediators by the end of 2011 and thereby truly create a prison of peace.
In September of 2011, Prison of Peace received a letter from Warden Walter Miller, expressing appreciation for the program and recognizing that “[s]ince the start of the Prison of Peace program the institution appears quieter and with less violence.” Most significantly, he went on to state that “[t]he inmates in the Prison of Peace program display leadership qualities that outweigh their past criminal behavior.” It is expected that by the end of 2011, over 200 inmates at VSPW will have been trained at Peacemakers, over 50 as Mediators, and over 50% of the general population of inmates will have participated in Peace Circles, thereby making VSPW a prison of peace.
In recognition of their pioneering work, the first 15 women trained as Peacemakers and Mediators, were awarded the Southern California Mediation Association Cloke/Millen Peacemaker of the Year Award for 2010.