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Open Society Foundations Announce 2019 Soros Justice Fellows

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced an award of $1.5 million to the 2019 class of Soros Justice Fellows, a mix of emerging and established leaders, including policy advocates, grassroots organizers, lawyers, and scholars. Working in 10 different states and the District of Columbia, the 17 fellows will take on a range of issues that advance efforts to curb mass incarceration, challenge harsh punishment, and advance a more accountable criminal justice system in the United States.

“The battle for a more just society demands bold ideas from people with the courage to dream big and challenge the status quo,” said Tom Perriello, executive director of Open Society-U.S. “The 2019 class of Soros Justice Fellows bring to bear energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to tackle the most intractable issues in our country. I’m incredibly excited to see what they will accomplish.”  

Among this year’s fellows is a lawyer who will challenge programs that use the threat of prosecution to prey on poor people accused of crimes; a writer who will explore the intersections between reproductive injustice and mass incarceration in the U.S. South; and an organizer who will work to build social and economic equity for people engaged in the informal economy.

Among the other projects being undertaken: a lawyer who will work to ensure accountability in the administration of opioid litigation settlements; an organizer and educator who seeks to foster, within the justice reform movement, a genuine commitment to LGBTQ disability justice; and a writer and advocate whose book will illustrate how the war on sex trafficking is a continuation of the war on drugs. 

Reflecting a long-standing hallmark of the program, several fellows in this year’s group will take on projects that result from their own experiences with the criminal justice system, including a California advocate who transformed an immensely personal tragedy into a public movement for police accountability and support for families impacted by police violence; a Black transgender activist whose incarceration has fueled broader debates about transgender liberation and prison abolition; and two local organizers who have emerged as national leaders in the movement for reproductive justice for incarcerated women.

“Some progress has been made on criminal justice reform, but we have a long way to go, and the hill we’re climbing is steep,” said Leonard Noisette, who oversees the fellowships as director of the Justice Team for Open Society–U.S. “The passion and commitment of this year’s fellows give me hope that we can take meaningful steps toward lasting change.”

To carry out their work, fellows receive a stipend of $57,500 to $127,500, for full-time projects lasting between 12 and 18 months. The 2019 fellows join over 400 other individuals who, since 1997, have received support through the Soros Justice Fellowships to build more vibrant and inclusive democracies.

2019 Soros Justice Fellows

Jarrell Daniels will launch the Justice Ambassadors, a leadership development opportunity for system-impacted youth in New York City.

Cynthia Greenlee will write a series of articles exploring the intersections between reproductive injustice and mass incarceration in the U.S. South.

Kris Henderson will develop a transformative justice training program focused on trauma and healing.

Tonja Honsey will launch We Rise! Leadership Circles to create a movement of formerly incarcerated mothers in Minnesota.

Sebastian Margaret will launch The Disability Project to develop movement-wide commitments to anti-ableism and to magnify the leadership, collective power and visibility of LGBTQ disabled, deaf, and ill constituents.

CeCe McDonald will create a curriculum for grassroots education that builds community support and power for transgender women, particularly transgender women of color.

Christine Minhee will track opioid litigation efforts nationally and develop ways to ensure accountability in the administration of opioid settlements.

Justice Rivera will write a book illustrating how the war on sex trafficking is a continuation of the war on drugs.

Yessica Gonzalez Rodriguez will work to end the practice of holding transgender and gender non-conforming people in immigration detention centers.

Devon Simmons will build a coalition of New York State advocates who will work to reimagine what community supervision looks like.

Theresa Smith will build a statewide network of families impacted by police violence.

Christina Sorenson will address the need for accessible and responsive grievance procedures for youth in institutional placements.

Bobby Tsow will challenge the state of Oregon’s harsh treatment of young people who come into conflict with the law.

ImeIme Umana will bring litigation challenging the constitutionality of diversion programs that use the threat of prosecution to prey on poor people accused of crimes.

Bulmaro Vicente will develop mechanisms to hold the Santa Ana (California) Police Department accountable for police misconduct and deadly use of force.

Richard Wallace will work to build social and economic equity for Black Chicagoans engaged in the informal economy.

Pamela Winn will create a comprehensive wellness, rehabilitation, and leadership program for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in the Southern United States.

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