A prison advocate’s selfless acts during their struggle and journey toward redemption are rarely recognized. Sue Russo, longtime prisoner rights activist, died in the California Correctional Women’s Facility in September 2022. She had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
In 1996 her sentence was commuted to 25-to-life by former Gov. Jerry Brown in honor of her diligent rehabilitation and history as a domestic violence survivor, according to the Fire Inside newsletter. Russo was a strong and caring inside member for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners advocacy group.
In Russo’s 28 years of incarceration she co-founded and facilitated Prison of Peace, a non-profit organization that aims to end violence in prison by teaching conflict resolution and restorative justice skills and processes.
Russo was diagnosed with valley fever, a chronic condition endemic to California’s Central Valley. She suffered ongoing respiratory issues, including COPD. She had multiple surgeries to remove portions of her infected lungs, reported the newsletter.
Russo’s commutation, accomplishments and remorse wasn’t enough to get her past the parole board, said CCWP representatives.
“Sue would be with us today [if it wasn’t for the denial],” said the article.
Rest in power, rest in peace — from CCWP and all the incarcerated servants.