Zafer Kirac

Ashoka Fellow


This profile was prepared when Zafer Kirac was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Zafer has been developing a platform that has become a conveyor of resources and knowledge between civil society and prisons. Through CISST, Zafer provides COs with the knowledge, training, and channels to bring their respective programs into prisons in Turkey. In doing so, he facilitates key interventions to ameliorate prison conditions and introduce rehabilitation opportunities which prepare prisoners for life after prison. Furthermore, Zafer mobilizes Turkey’s leading COs and universities to build public awareness and to form an informal support network for their target groups during and after prison. These partnerships deliver high-quality rehabilitation programs to prisoners as well as prison personnel. The programs also give CO representatives an opportunity to enter and observe life in prisons, fomenting empathetic understanding of prison situations. In turn, COs have increased their capacity to work with prisoners, bringing their resources into the prisons and forming a monitoring function which informs CISST’s reports, policy recommendations, and future programs. CISST also acts as a platform to guide prisoners in their life after prison by connecting them to relevant COs and universities. This program has a special focus on youth but also works with marginalized populations like women, LGBT-identifying community members, and the elderly.

CISST is also the first and only citizen sector initiative to focus on the challenges of prison personnel, management, as well as infrastructure and architecture issues in prisons, offering a unique and comprehensive perspective on the penal systems shortcomings. Zafer believes such a comprehensive perspective on prisons is necessary to open the penal system to change, as is keeping a constructive dialogue with the government based on expertise and facts. CISST’s entrepreneurial way of leveraging and channeling much needed resources and know-how for the penal system, along with its systematic perspective of prisoners, prison staff, and management as all part of the current challenges and future solutions—makes significant impact possible.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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