when women negotiate they change the world around them

How is it that women, with dark pasts, serving time for murder and manslaughter, can be honored as Peacemakers?

Teach some women to negotiate today and tomorrow they'll be transforming the lives of others.  Lawyer and Mediator Lauel Kaufer is one of those women who heeds the call of suffering.  First it was her post-Katrina Mississippi Mediation Project - formed on hope and a prayer - and now it's women in prison. As Kaufer and her partner mediator Doug Noll explain at Mediate.com this month,

Fifteen women, all inmates, most, “lifers,” will receive the 2010 Cloke-Millen Peacemaker of the Year Award by the Southern California Mediation Association.

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.

Continue reading here.

Once we learn our value and get busy deploying it, there's no way to stop us from realizing our own dreams, which so often include relieving the hardships of others.  Brava to Laurel and Doug for their ground-breaking work and to the women of Chowchilla for bringing peace in the most unlikely of places.