Fellow Since 2000
História do Presente Org Paulista para Ações Cidadania
This profile was prepared when Roberto da Silva was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Roberto has a new vision for creating a community-based prison system, geared at rehabilitating prisoners by minimizing their alienation and dislocation from their families and their community. To meet the growing need for prisons in Brazil and to create engaged and active citizens rather than ex-convicts, Roberto is proposing a viable alternative to large and remote prison institutions. In Roberto's new model, prisoners serve their entire sentences in new or redesigned medium-sized facilities (with up to five hundred prisoners). This model maintains family and social ties. The facilities are run by community-based organizations that act as service providers for the state, which provides basic subsistence for the prisoners. Prisoners are employed by businesses, enabling them to provide income for their families, save wages for their future release, and contribute to the costs of prison services like professional training and education programs. Social and behavioral norms are set by an elected group of prisoners, reinforcing citizenship responsibility. Roberto's idea goes substantially beyond earlier models of community involvement. His design for facilities creates a management structure for prisons that reinforces the prisoner's rehabilitation and the community's commitment to that rehabilitation. To implement his idea, Roberto has created a methodology to identify, train, and professionalize citizen organizations to manage community-based prison facilities. He provides them with concrete skills in management and public administration, reinforced by a network of technical partners and government agencies to make community management of prisons a viable and effective option for improving the current situation of violence and corruption in Brazilian prisons.