OSI Awards More Than $1.25 Million Nationwide to New Leaders in Criminal Justice Reform

NEW YORK—A reporter investigating a wrongful execution in Texas under then-Governor George Bush and an economic development expert replicating an after-prison program that preserves public safety and reduces recidivism are just two of the 2005 Open Society Institute Soros Justice Fellows.

Others include a minister and former prison chaplain in Huntsville, Texas, who will mobilize conservative and mainstream religious leaders, churches, and faith-based volunteers to educate the public and policymakers on the need for sentencing and justice reform, and an immigrant who successfully fought deportation during five years in detention who will provide support to immigrants detained in the American South.

This year’s 18 new faces of justice reform include filmmakers, clergy, formerly incarcerated people, advocates, lawyers, journalists, scholars, economic planners, and researchers. The 2005 fellowships, totaling $1,252,000 in grants, reflect OSI’s commitment to systemic justice reform. OSI has awarded over $10 million to nearly 200 Soros Justice Fellows since the Soros Justice Fellowship program’s inception in 1997.

Soros Justice Fellows conduct one- and two-year projects and receive stipends of $35,000 to $97,000. Fellows are listed below in alphabetical order.

Soros Justice Fellows

Michelle Alexander, JD; lawyer and law professor, Stanford University; Mountain View, CA
To complete a book called The New Jim Crow that inspires public dialogue about the so-called war on drugs and mass incarceration as the defining racial justice issues of our time.

Kenavon Carter, JD; lawyer and advocate, ACLU of Texas; Austin, TX
To launch a project to reduce racial profiling by Texas law enforcement agencies through public education campaigns, grassroots mobilization, and impact litigation.

Kristi Couvillon, JD, MSW; lawyer and social worker, Texas Defender Service; Austin, TX
To implement in Texas and surrounding states the American Bar Association Guidelines that seek to guarantee adequate defense representation for indigent people in capital cases. The project includes grassroots efforts, casework, and public education.

Fredric Dannen; journalist; Austin, TX
To write a book about David Wayne Spence, an innocent man executed in Texas in 1997, that illuminates the collective failure of the courts to prevent his state-sanctioned murder.

Michele Deitch, JD; lawyer and policy expert; Austin, TX
To promote and develop prison oversight and inspection models in the United States that, in keeping with international human rights laws, monitor what happens to prisoners behind closed doors.

Jeffrey Fagan, PhD; law professor and scholar, Columbia University School of Law; New York, NY
To critically examine new research that upholds the deterrent effect of the death penalty as a rationale for expanding the use of capital punishment and broadening the use of harsh criminal laws for everyday crimes.

Shaena Fazal, JD; lawyer, John Howard Association; Chicago, IL
To develop programs to ameliorate the warehousing of long-term prisoners by revamping parole procedures; re-introducing education, mental health, and vocational programs in prisons; and advocating for reduced sentences.

Norris Henderson; activist and formerly incarcerated, Innocence Project of New Orleans; New Orleans, LA
To organize formerly incarcerated people in Louisiana to advocate for the right to vote and to participate fully in the economic, social, and political life of the community.

Gregory Hooks, PhD; sociology professor and scholar, Washington State University; Pullman, WA
To examine, compare, and contrast the economic impact of prisons and educational institutions on economically strapped rural communities. Hooks was the lead author of a 2004 research project that questioned the assumption that prisons provide economic benefits to struggling rural economies.

Dan Hunt and Janet Baus; filmmakers; Monson, MA and Brooklyn, NY
To complete and distribute the documentary film Cruel and Unusual that examines the severe and pervasive punishment transgender prisoners endure in correctional facilities.

Dana Kaplan, MA; activist, Center for Constitutional Rights; New York, NY
To launch Jail Justice, a project that challenges the expansion of local jails (even as prison growth has slowed) by providing technical support to low-income and immigrant groups and encouraging public support for alternatives that increase safety and reduce incarceration.

Abubakr Muhammad Karim, MS; community development expert, Milton Eisenhower Foundation; Washington, D.C.
To replicate a national program run by and for formerly incarcerated people who are making the transition from prison into the community. The project will offer residential housing, entrepreneurial opportunities, and intensive life-skills training to support and realize the potential of this population.

Joe Loya; author, journalist, formerly incarcerated; Oakland, CA
To write a second memoir, The Parole of Buddha Lobo, about his reentry into society after serving time in federal prison in California . Loya is the acclaimed author of The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber, published by HarperCollins in 2004, that chronicles his life before his release from prison.

Alexander Ndaula; activist and former immigrant detainee, National Immigration Project; Boston, MA
To provide support to immigrants detained in the rural South. Ndaula’s project will help detainees and their families to investigate, document, and combat abuses and to raise public awareness about the plight of immigrants in the criminal justice system.

Vivian Nixon; minister, advocate, formerly incarcerated, First Episcopal District A.M.E. Church; Queens, NY
To educate ministers and lay leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in five Northeastern states about the impact of incarceration on the African-American community and the need for community engagement and policy change.

Emmett Solomon, MDiv; minister, former prison chaplain, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition; Huntsville, TX
To develop a network of conservative and mainstream religious leaders, churches, and faith-based volunteers across the political and ideological spectrum to educate the public and policy makers on the need for sentencing reform, curbing prison expansion, and redirecting criminal justice monies to strengthen community resources and bolster public safety. Solomon has forty years of experience working within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and working with religious communities.

Annie Sundberg and Rickie Stern; filmmakers; New York, NY
To complete and distribute the documentary film The Trials of Darryl Hunt about a wrongfully convicted man, Darryl Hunt, who spent nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Harmon Wray, MA, M.Div; minister and advocate, Vanderbilt Divinity School; Nashville, TN
To partner with leaders of national and Southern faith-based communities to advocate for an alternative vision for what faithful, responsible, and progressive ministry should be in the context of crime and the criminal justice system.