Fellow Since 1996
This profile was prepared when Elvira Alvarez Alá was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
In response to bottlenecks in Bolivia's justice system, where thousands of people are detained unjustly, Elvira Alvarez has developed a process to help those who have been abandoned in prison. Her innovative system includes the full participation of the prisoner and teaches family members, friends and a sponsor how to work together to provide the "human factor" necessary to move the judicial process along. This network of advocates interacts with the judicial bureaucracy and proposes a program of support for the prisoner that includes a plan for his or her rehabilitation. The law requires a rehabilitation program to be in place before a prisoner may be released; however, it does not provide rehabilitation measures mechanisms to assist in their creation. One of the distinctive features of Elvira's ombudsman-like model is that it creates from the bottom up the implementation structures that are needed to fill the gap between the law and the people who need to be able to use it. She has influenced judicial reform at the national level in Bolivia, and, by working with a network of interested organizations, she has been able to spread her model to other Latin American countries.