Arturo Esquer, a young Mexican-American ex-gangster sat in a prison cell in California's Pelican Bay. Sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, Arturo has spent every day of his adult life behind bars. Shortly after arriving in prison, he began reading books on Buddhism, and in 1996, after reading Introduction to Tantra, by Lama Yeshe, Arturo wrote to FPMT to ask if there was any way for him to be sent Mandala magazine regularly.
Venerable Robina Courtin, who was the editor of Mandala at the time, sent Dharma books and copies of Mandala to Arturo. Within the year, he received Refuge and Lay Vows from Venerable Robina. This was followed by ongoing teaching, correspondence and eventually Bodhisattva Vows. Soon, Arturo's practice had a wider impact, and other prisoners began to write. Within a year, Venerable Robina was corresponding with 40 men incarcerated in prisons all over the US. Although the Liberation Prison Project wouldn't formally come into existence for another 4 years, the stage had been set.
References: History of Liberation Prison Project, Interview with Arturo Esquer, Mandala Magazine (July, 1998)