The PEACE Group By Little John Perry
Over the years, Pelican Bay has been considered the worst prison in California. Since
its establishment in 1989, the ‘Bay’ has been infamous for housing the most hardened
criminals the state holds– hence the even more infamous Security Housing Unit (SHU).
There are countless tales of violence on both small and large scales. However, having grown weary of the endless cycles of bloodshed and indefinite terms of confinement—not to mention the way society viewed mediation between races, them— a group of prisoners, along with men who had been confined to the SHU for decades, came together in 2016 with a common goal: find a way to improve how we live in prison.
Thus, the PEACE Group was founded. PEACE is an acronym for “Prisoners Embracing Anti-Hostility Cultural Evolution.” The idea for the PEACE Group came from Jessie Perez, who had been housed in the SHU for many years. Although Perez transferred to another prison before he could reducing interracial violence, how to communicate more effectively, how to reduce tension on the yard, how to reduce the risk of violence, as well as other similar discussions—all for the purpose of creating a positive and less anti- social environment. The group also facilitates sports tournaments; teams are made up of men from all different races and associations.
The PEACE Group on B-yard has been up and running since 2017. Group meetings consist of five or so men from each ethnic segment coming together and having conversations on topics such as mediation a maximum security GP yard, but in these events we see that we actually can put aside our differences and biases for a greater common good. We also want to learn and use proven conflict resolution methods to improve individual quality of life, including etiquette and the proper treatment of women, learning how to respect and appreciate different cultures and backgrounds, and how to engage in productive conversations with different kinds of people.
The ultimate goal of the PEACE Group is to put an end to racial violence in prison. Many wars in the past were due mainly to a lack of communication, knowledge and understanding. We want to prevent these things.
Don’t get me wrong. Prison won’t become peace- ful overnight, but no goal can be achieved if we don’t try. At this time I would like to thank everyone at Pelican Bay who has put real effort into making things work. Without y’all, Pelican Bay would be the last place any- one wants to be.
Special shout outs to Ms. Silva and Ms. Roberts and the members of the PEACE Group.