José David Toro

Ashoka Fellow
Ibague,Tolima, Colombia
Fellow Since 2001


This profile was prepared when José David Toro was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
During seven years as a prisoner, José David Toro worked with other prisoners to investigate and determine what prisoners need most to transition to life outside jail. Building on the efforts he started while still an inmate, José David, who was released for good behavior in 2000, has created a two-part response to the problems prisoners face in violent prisons as well as in the outside communities where released prisoners typically fail to integrate into society. "Peace Laboratories" provide socialization and skills training, which are sorely missing in Colombian prisons. On top of this, businesses in which inmates and former prisoners can contribute meaningfully–starting with a delivery company, since mail and package delivery is a service that inmates take very seriously–engage them in productive activity, create incentives for good behavior, allow contact with society outside the penitentiary, and build foundations for professional growth when the prisoner is released. Prisoner-led businesses such as delivery services also deliver a message to the world outside the prison: that current and former prisoners can be responsible and productive members of society. This reinforces the activities of agencies and organizations that would conduct socialization, job training, and work-release employment activities if they did not fear for their safety working with prisoners, and for the success of their endeavors. It also amplifies the opportunities for former prisoners, which in turn creates greater incentives for good behavior to attain early release.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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