Faustino Zapico García

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Faustino Zapico García was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Faustino is transforming prisons into educational spaces. He dismantles the harmful prison subculture defined by drugs, violence, and the “law of silence”—which obliges inmates to keep abusive practices secret. Using an alternative prison model that immerses prisoners in an educational environment that teaches skills and more importantly, values such as empathy and kindness, Faustino has created micro-societies that enable inmates to learn to live as they would outside the prison walls.
A key aspect to this prison model has been to radically reformulate the roles of the two largest groups involved in prison life, guards and inmates, removing the traditional prisoner-jailer relationship of constant conflict. Faustino has been able to convert traditional prison modules, perpetuators of the harmful subculture, into co-managed spaces run by the inmates alongside the guards, called Units of Therapy and Education (UTEs). As they work together, trust is built in contrast to an environment based on fear and confrontation.
In the UTEs, guards are highly valued and given responsibility as tutors over groups of inmates according to their specific educational levels and training (unlike traditional prisons where guards are undervalued and only expected to watch, maintain order, and count prisoners). The inmates and guards work with therapeutic professionals to create and then co-manage the ideal environment to promote constant formal and non-formal education in values and skills.
Since Fausino’s program began, violent behavior has been reduced in society as a whole by drastically lowering the rates of re-offence from (a usual) 60 percent to 10 percent of those that have participated in UTE.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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