Soros Justice Fellowships
The Soros Justice Fellowships fund outstanding individuals to undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system. The fellowships are part of a larger effort within the Open Society Foundations to reduce the destructive impact of current criminal justice policies on the lives of individuals, families, and communities in the United States by challenging the overreliance on incarceration and extreme punishment, and ensuring a fair and accountable system of justice.
Fellows receive funding through the following three categories:
The Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships fund lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, researchers, and others with unique perspectives to undertake full-time criminal justice reform projects at the local, state, and national levels. 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 and may be undertaken with the support of a host organization. Advocacy Fellowships come with an award that ranges between $94,500 and $127,500, depending on level of experience, for the 18 months.
The Soros Justice Media Fellowships support writers, print and broadcast journalists, artists, filmmakers, and other individuals with distinctive voices proposing to complete media projects that engage and inform, spur debate and conversation, and catalyze change on important U.S. criminal justice issues. The Media Fellowships aim to mitigate the time, space, and market constraints that often discourage individuals from pursuing vital but marginalized, controversial, or unpopular topics in comprehensive and creative ways. 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. Media Fellowships come with an award that ranges between $63,000 and $85,000, depending on level of experience, for the 12 months. Up to three people can apply jointly for a single Media Fellowship, but joint applications carry a single award.
Youth Activist Fellowships
The Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowships, in partnership with the Open Society Youth Exchange, support outstanding individuals aged 18 to 25 to take on projects of their own design that address some aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system. Projects can range from public education and training to grassroots organizing and policy advocacy to social media campaigns and other forms of creative communications. Youth Activist Fellowships must be undertaken in partnership with a host organization. Projects can be full-time or part-time and12 or 18 months in duration. Youth Activist Fellowships come with an award of $57,500 for full-time, 18-month projects (the award is pro-rated for part-time or 12-month projects).
All projects must, at a minimum, relate to one or more of the following U.S. criminal justice reform goals: reducing the number of people who are incarcerated or under correctional control, challenging extreme punishment, and promoting fairness and accountability in our systems of justice. Please carefully review the complete guidelines for more details on the specific requirements for each category of fellowships.
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, LGBTI people, women and children, and those otherwise 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.
We especially 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, or applicants who are survivors of violence or crime).
The fellowships do not fund the following:
- enrollment for degree or nondegree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research
- projects that address criminal justice issues outside the United States (applicants themselves—with the exception of Youth Activist Fellowship applicants—can be based outside the United States, as long as their work directly relates to a U.S. issue)
- lobbying activities
Applications must be submitted online via the application portal.Apply Online
Download the complete guidelines.
Download the complete guidelines.
Download the complete guidelines.
Download our tax lobbying rules.
Ernest Drucker2003Ernest Drucker will develop a public health model for understanding the deleterious impact and social consequences of mass incarceration, particularly on urban communities throughout the United States.
Kerry Cook2003Kerry Cook spent 22 years on death row in Texas for a crime he did not commit. In 1999, he was exonerated with DNA evidence. He will write a memoir detailing his experience as an innocent person wrongfully convicted and the critical need for...
Leslie Neale2003Leslie Neale will complete and conduct outreach around her documentary film Juvies, about juveniles being prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to adult prisons in California.
Margaret Love2003Margaret Love will research state and federal procedures for the restoration of rights after criminal convictions. She will analyze how effective these policies are and will lay the groundwork for a national effort to eliminate legal barriers to...
Mary Beth Pfeiffer2003Mary Beth Pfeiffer will investigate the growth of the mentally ill prison population in various states and to examine treatment options and opportunities for reform.
Maurice Emsellem2003Maurice Emsellem will help educate and engage labor unions impacted by the spread of employment screening for criminal records after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks a trend that increasingly denies jobs to formerly incarcerated people.
Melissa Bradley2003Melissa Bradley will integrate employment programs for formerly incarcerated people into mainstream economic development and to encourage investments from the business community to meet the employment needs of the over 600,000 people returning...
Neelum Arya2003Neelum Arya will address through investigation, direct legal advocacy, and mobilizing youth and their families California's law that funnels young people into the adult criminal justice system (a result of Proposition 21).
O. Grace Bankole2003O. Grace Bankole will To organize parents to reduce the number of imprisoned children in Louisiana, to advocate for their incarcerated children, and to train a group of Parent Advocates that serve as statewide resources for other families involved...
LaTonya Tate2018LaTonya Tate will identify and implement effective community-based alternatives to Alabama’s outdated probation and parole practices.
Leyla Martinez2018Leyla Martinez will create a coalition of Latinas that can help shape public attitudes toward their experiences with the criminal justice system.
Linda Heng2018Linda Heng will document the experiences of Southeast Asian youth affected by deportation and the criminal justice system and help promote their leadership in the broader movement for social justice.
MiAngel Cody2018MiAngel Cody’s Banished project will tell the stories of Black people incarcerated under U.S. “three strikes” drug law and challenge the government to disclose information on those serving mandatory life sentences.
Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes2018Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes will combine musical compositions with audio interviews to create an installation piece exploring the realities of daily violence, incarceration, and detention in communities of color.
Troy Williams2018Troy Williams will create a national multimedia platform and community engagement program that will help formerly incarcerated people document their experiences and engage the public.
Tung Nguyen2018Tung Nguyen will establish a model system in Orange County, California, for supporting Vietnamese facing deportation—a system that could be implemented nationwide.