How do you pay for peacemaking?

Alcatraz at Dawn
Alcatraz at Dawn

What Murderers Can Teach Us about Mediation

What Murderers Can Teach Us about Mediation was the title of Doug Noll’s key note address to the ADR Section’s annual luncheon.  A more descriptive title might have been What Can Convict Women Serving 25-Life Sentences’ With Little Possibility of Parole in a Maximum Security Prison Teach Us About Getting Along Peacefully with Our Neighbors. 

Doug Noll and Laurel Kaufer have worked with such women teaching them conflict resolution skills and teaching them how to teach the same skills to other prisoners.  It is hard to evaluate success in such a venture because most attempts at rehabilitation of prisons use recidivism rates to measure success.  Here there are no recidivism rates to measure because these women most likely will never be released.  But that is not to say that Doug and Laurel and the prisoners they work with don’t have success.  The women are duplicating the work among other prisoners.  Thanks to California Prison Realignment the program is growing and replicating itself in other prisons.

This is part four of my interview with Doug Noll.

How is Prison of Peace financed? or How do you pay for peacemaking?

Prison of Peace remains a pro bono effort of two lawyers unassociated with any organization, law firm, faith community, or group. We pay for everything out of our own pockets, including photocopying expenses, pens, paper pads, flip charts, and travel expenses.

We have received some grants, including $20,000 from the JAMS Foundation, to cover some of our costs. However, we have found that most foundations are not interested in supporting self-help work for inmates serving life sentences. In particular, women serving life sentences seem to be invisible in our society in general and philanthropic foundations in particular. We have a drawer full of rejections.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is well aware of our project, but because of budget cuts has no money to support us.

Tax-deductible charitable gifts may be made to our 501(c)(3) fiscal agent, the Fresno Regional Foundation, in Fresno, California.

Do you need volunteers? Why not?

At the moment, we do not have the infrastructure or finances to support a volunteer organization. Recruiting, training, scheduling, coordinating, and evaluating volunteers is

a full-time job by itself. We simply do not have the ability to do that. In addition, this work is extremely intense and requires complete and total dedication. When we say we will show up, we show up. There is no room for error here because the trust is so difficult to gain and so simple to lose. Thus, anyone interested in this work must recognize that it is a demanding calling.

What about the online classes in negotiations?

Because this work takes up so much time, it has cut into our ability to make livings as professional mediators. As a result, we have looked for other revenue sources. Out of this came the idea of developing advanced online legal negotiation training. I created a foundational course that is nine hours long called Negotiation Mastery for the Legal Pro I have followed that with a master class webinar series in negotiation. All of the proceeds from the nine hour course and the webinars support the project. The course and the webinars are all MCLE approved in California. Information about the course and the webinars can be found at

In 2014, I will be launching a new series of online classes for the general public. These webinars and classes will duplicate what we teach in the prisons. We hope to spread the word about these powerful techniques we have developed and provide another revenue stream to support the work. The website for that project is

Alcatraz's Broadway by ourselves at night.
Alcatraz’s Broadway by ourselves at night.

Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman ( has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

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