OSI Announces 2003 Winners of Soros Justice Fellowships

NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute today announced the twenty-two scholars, journalists, former prisoners, advocates, lawyers, and organizers who will receive this year's prestigious Soros Justice Fellowships. The Fellowships support dynamic individuals working to restore fairness and discretion to the U.S. criminal justice system on a range of issues, including juvenile justice, sentencing reform, higher education in prison, the death penalty, drug policy, indigent defense, re-entry of prisoners into communities, immigrants' rights, and civil liberties.

OSI's Soros Justice Media, Postgraduate, and Senior Fellows receive one and two-year stipends, ranging from $35,000 to $98,200. Since 1997, the Soros Justice Fellowships have supported over 140 agents for change across the country.

  • The Soros Justice Media Fellowship is a one-year program that funds journalists working in print, photography, radio, and documentary film to improve the quality of media coverage of incarceration and criminal justice issues.
  • The Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellowship is a two-year program that funds outstanding lawyers, advocates, activists, and former prisoners to support national criminal justice reform.
  • The Soros Justice Senior Fellowship is a one-year program that supports experienced activists, academics, and community leaders to raise the level of national discussion and scholarship and prompt policy debate on issues of incarceration and criminal justice.

The 2003 OSI Soros Justice Media, Postgraduate, and Senior Fellows are listed below in alphabetical order by program.

SOROS JUSTICE MEDIA FELLOWS

Elizabeth Amon, New York, NY: staff reporter at The National Law Journal, to write articles that explore the nexus between immigration policy and criminal justice after September 11.

Amy Bach, New York, NY: freelance journalist, to write a book about how the courts treat ordinary people and the structural and systemic reasons why justice fails.

Nathan Blakeslee, Austin, TX: co-editor of The Texas Observer, to write a book about the controversial drug sting in Tulia, Texas.

Slawomir Grunberg, Spencer, NY: filmmaker, to complete a documentary film, Borderline, about a "borderline" mentally retarded woman serving 15 years to life for murder, despite evidence that the death was accidental.

Curtis Harris, New York, NY: freelance journalist, to write articles on why the justice system fails to conduct thorough investigations into criminal cases, resulting in wrongful incarcerations.

Robin Mejia, Santa Cruz, CA: investigative reporter, to write articles addressing problems in the field of forensic science that affect the fairness of thousands of trials each year and the fates of thousands of people.

Tyrone Turner, Arlington, VA: freelance photojournalist, to explore the devastating impact of trying juveniles as adults.

SOROS JUSTICE POSTGRADUATE FELLOWS

Miriam Aukerman, Grand Rapids, MI: In conjunction with Western Michigan Legal Services, to challenge civil legal barriers that prevent former offenders in Western Michigan from successfully re-establishing themselves in the community.

Michael Blain, Washington, D.C.: In conjunction with the Justice Policy Institute, Mr. Blain, a former prisoner and a graduate of the University of Maryland, will organize a network of inmates, former prisoners, and their families to participate in a national movement to advocate for prisoner's right and criminal justice policy reform.

Kamel Jacot-Bell, New York, NY: In conjunction with the Prison Moratorium Project, to launch It's Bigger than Hip-Hop, a pop culture project that engages young people with political activism and community organizing to generate change around the issue of mass-incarceration.

Benita Jain, New York, NY: In conjunction with the Immigrant Defense Project, NYS Defender's Association, to establish a community-based legal services model that supports organizing efforts to reform detention and deportation laws and addresses immediate legal needs of detainees.

Daniel Karpowitz, New York, NY: In conjunction with the Bard Prison Initiative, to focus his efforts on higher education in prisons.

Sapna Mirchandani, Washington, D.C.: In conjunction with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, to work towards ending juvenile executions in the United States.

Adam C. Ortiz, Washington, D.C.: In conjunction with the American Bar Association's Juvenile Justice Center, to join community activism with a coordinated national strategy to eliminate the juvenile death penalty, focusing on seven states where juveniles are currently awaiting execution.

Kemba Smith, Richmond, VA: In conjunction with the Drug Policy Alliance, Ms. Smith, who served six and a half years in a federal prison before her sentence was commuted by President Clinton, will unite youth from a variety of backgrounds to support drug policy reform.

Peter Wagner, Cincinnati, OH: In conjunction with the Prison Reform Advocacy Center, to work on reforming the current practice of counting urban prisoners as rural residents for purposes of redistricting.

JeDonna Young, Detroit: In conjunction with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Ms. Young, who served twenty-one years before her sentence was commuted by President Clinton, will organize grassroots and media support around sentencing reform in select mid-western states.

SOROS JUSTICE SENIOR FELLOWS

Robert Boruchowitz, Seattle, WA: public defender, to reduce the number of people facing misdemeanor and juvenile prosecution without counsel, and increase use of alternatives to incarceration.

Angela J. Davis, Washington, D.C.: Professor of Law at the American University Washington College of Law, to write a book about how prosecutorial power and discretion have perpetuated many of the inequities and flaws in the criminal justice system.

Eric Lotke, Washington, D.C.: attorney, to examine the economic impact of how the U.S. census counts prisoners and the impact that has on funding communities.

Lori Pompa, Philadelphia, PA: Director of Experiential Learning for the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University, to nationally replicate the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, the semester-long course she developed that is conducted inside Pennsylvania's prisons and jails to foster dialogue between college students and incarcerated people.

Deborah Ramirez, Boston, MA: Professor at the Northeastern University College of Law and Co-Director of the Northeastern University's Institute on Race and Justice, to strengthen understanding between law enforcement and the Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities.

The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grantmaking foundation, is part of the network of foundations, created and funded by George Soros, active in more than 50 countries around the world.

OSI's U.S. Programs seek to strengthen democracy in the United States by addressing barriers to opportunity and justice, broadening public discussion about such barriers, and assisting marginalized groups to participate equally in civil society and to make their voices heard. OSI U.S. Programs challenges over-reliance on the market by advocating appropriate government responsibility for human needs and promoting public interest and service values. OSI U.S. Programs supports initiatives in a range of areas including access to justice for low and moderate income people; judicial independence; ending the death penalty; reducing gun violence and over-reliance on incarceration; drug policy reform; inner-city education and youth programs; fair treatment of immigrants; reproductive health and choice; campaign finance reform; and improved care of the dying.