The Soros Justice Fellowships fund outstanding individuals to implement innovative projects that advance reform and spur debate on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system. The Fellowships Program is part of a larger effort within the Open Society Foundations’ Criminal Justice Fund to reduce the destructive impact of current criminal justice policies on the lives of individuals, families, and communities in the United State by challenging the overreliance on incarceration and harsh punishment, and ensuring a fair and equitable system of justice.
Fellows receive funding through the following two categories:
Advocacy Fellowships fund outstanding individuals—including lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, activist academics, and others with important perspectives—to initiate innovative policy advocacy projects at the local, state, and national levels that will have a measurable impact on one or more of the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. criminal justice priorities. Projects may range from litigation to public education to coalition-building to grassroots mobilization to policy-driven research. Advocacy Fellowships are 18 months in duration, may be implemented in conjunction with a host organization, and fellows are expected to make their projects their full-time work during the term of the fellowship. Projects can begin in the spring or fall of 2013.
Media Fellowships support writers, print and broadcast journalists, bloggers, filmmakers, and other individuals with distinct voices proposing to complete media projects for local, regional and national markets that engage the public and spur debate on one or more of the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. criminal justice priorities. The fellowships aim to mitigate the time, space, and market constraints that often discourage individuals from pursuing important but marginalized, controversial or unpopular issues in a comprehensive manner. Media Fellowships are 12 months in duration, and fellows are expected to make their projects their full-time work during the term of the fellowship. Projects can begin in either the spring or fall of 2013.
Within the larger context of three broad but interrelated goals—reducing mass incarceration, eliminating harsh punishment, and securing a fair system of justice—all Soros Justice Fellowships projects should address one or more of the following Criminal Justice Fund priorities:
- Expose the excessive and economically destructive costs of incarceration
- Promote just and effective sentencing practices
- Foster policies and practices that reduce prison and corrections populations
- Abolish the privatization of prisons, detention centers, and correctional supervision
- Combat the criminalization of marginalized populations, e.g. people with mental illness, homeless individuals, young people
- Eliminate unreasonable barriers to the reintegration of people returning from prison, as well as challenge the stigmatization of people with criminal records
- End the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of children as adults
- Abolish the death penalty
- Promote the civic engagement and leadership of people with criminal records
- Eliminate the use of long-term solitary confinement in prison
- Challenge harsh immigration enforcement and detention policies and practices
- Promote new approaches to drug policy
- Reform discriminatory and abusive police and prosecution practices
- Improve indigent defense services and systems
- Reduce unnecessary pretrial detention
We strongly encourage applications for projects that demonstrate a clear understanding of the intersection of criminal justice issues with the particular needs of low-income communities, communities of color, immigrants, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, women and children, and those disproportionately affected by harsh criminal justice policies; as well as applications for projects that cut across various criminal justice fields and related sectors, such as education, health and mental health, housing and employment.
Also, we in particular welcome applications from individuals directly affected by, or with significant direct personal experience with, the policies, practices and systems their projects seek to address (e.g. applicants who have themselves been incarcerated, applicants who have a family member or loved one who has been incarcerated and whose fellowship project emerges from that experience).
The Fellowships Program does NOT fund:
- Enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research
- Projects that address criminal justice issues outside the U.S. (applicants themselves, however, can be based outside the U.S., provided their work directly pertains to a U.S. issue)
- Past recipients of a Soros Justice Fellowship
- Lobbying activities
Download and review the complete guidelines at left. Our online system will begin accepting applications on July 30, 2012.
Applicants who are uncertain whether some aspect of their proposed project fits within the parameters of the Fellowships Program guidelines or whether the project is otherwise likely to be of interest to the program may submit an email inquiry before proceeding with the full application. The email should provide a brief (no more than 500 words) description of the proposed project, as well as some background information on the applicant, and should be sent to: email@example.com. Please do NOT submit an email inquiry before reviewing the appropriate documents to the left.