Virginia Varela Dubra
Fellow Since 2003
This profile was prepared when Virginia Varela Dubra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Having seen that a few carefully chosen interventions can determine whether a newly released inmate resumes a life of criminal behavior or not, Virginia is introducing low-cost services that help young prisoners who have been jailed for comparatively brief terms get back on their feet after their release. Her work starts in the prison, where she provides counseling, private tutoring in select subjects, and off-site vocational training. More importantly, she makes sure that these young inmates have a place to go and an opportunity to forge a new life after their release. To do this, she has convinced businesses to employ former inmates and arrange three-month mentorships that commence from the time of hire to provide encouragement and training during the critical adjustment period. Having proven the effectiveness of her approach in Montevideo's largest juvenile detention center, Virginia is increasing her organization to include eight additional prisons in Uruguay, with plans to use her existing network to spread elements of her work throughout Latin America.