NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute today awarded $1.4 million to a group of extraordinary scholars, lawyers, advocates, and journalists working to tackle deep-rooted problems in the U.S. justice system.
The 2010 Soros Justice Fellows, from nine states and Washington, DC, will take on issues including racial profiling, federal immigration enforcement, and the school-to-prison pipeline.
They include a community organizer in Connecticut who will challenge policies that push children out of school and onto a path to jail, and an advocate in New Orleans who will help the city's Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs curb police intimidation that threatens beloved local traditions.
"The Soros Justice Fellows offer hope and the possibility for real and lasting change for a criminal justice system that has long been in crisis," said Ann Beeson, executive director for U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute. "Now, more than ever, we welcome their commitment and vision."
Other fellows include a Maryland poet will who will write a book exploring how crime and punishment create ripple effects that move far beyond victim and accused, and two journalists who together will investigate the unintended consequences of a federal immigration enforcement program that began in Texas and is taking hold nationally.
The 18 Soros Justice Fellows will receive a stipend of $45,000 to $108,750 for each of 17 projects lasting 12-18 months.
Since 1997, the Open Society Institute has awarded more than $15 million to Soros Justice Fellows as part of a broader effort to curb mass incarceration and ensure a fair and equitable system of justice in the United States.
George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Institute, has contributed more than $7 billion to foster open societies around the world, including more than $1 billion in the United States.
2010 Soros Justice Fellows
Reginald Dwayne Betts, Bowie, MD
An author, poet, and juvenile justice activist, Betts will write a book about the ways that crime and mass incarceration affect the families of both victims and incarcerated, social workers, teachers, and others who will never see the inside of a jail cell.
Ronald Chatters III, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Chatters will advocate on behalf of the thousands of people with disabilities who leave Los Angeles jails every year. While incarcerated, people with disabilities lose vital Supplementary Security Income benefits and health insurance, compounding the challenges they face when they reenter society.
William Collins, Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, New Orleans, LA
Collins will examine and challenge how racial and ethnic minorities are purged from Louisiana capital juries-a practice that contributes to a disproportionate number of minority defendants on death row.
Alexandra Cox, Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, Brooklyn, NY
Cox will develop and implement research and protocols for discovering and improving relationships between youth and staff in juvenile facilities, and thereby increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for incarcerated youth.
Amanda J. Crawford, Phoenix, AZ
The former Arizona Republic reporter will pursue a series of magazine articles that explores the consequences of the drug war along the U.S. border and beyond.
Manuel Criollo, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles, CA
Criollo, a grassroots organizer and activist, will spearhead an effort to challenge policies and practices in the city and county of Los Angeles that represent an increasingly punitive approach toward Black and Latino youth.
Renee Feltz & Stokely Baksh, New York, NY & Fairfax, VA
Journalists Feltz and Baksh will produce a multimedia investigative report to examine Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Operation Secure Communities. Although designed to target dangerous "criminal aliens," there are signs that the year-old program has already veered dangerously off course.
Guy Gambill, Justice Policy Institute, Washington, D.C. & Minneapolis, MN
A veteran of the armed services, Gambill will advocate for alternatives to arrest and incarceration for veterans. More than two million veterans are caught up in the criminal justice system each year, and that number is growing.
Raj Jayadev, New America Media / Silicon Valley De-Bug, San Jose, CA
Jayadev will develop an action network within communities most targeted by the justice system to provide information, advice and support for people entering the criminal court process. His project aims to improve the plea bargaining system of Santa Clara County.
Laura McCargar, A Better Way Foundation, Hartford, CT
McCargar will work to stem the flow of Connecticut youth into the school-to-prison pipeline by exposing and reforming the little-known practice of counseling older students to enroll in alternative school or drop out of school altogether. This practice typically accelerates the flow of young people into the justice system.
Alison McCrary, Safe Streets / Strong Communities, New Orleans, LA
McCrary will challenge law enforcement practices that criminalize New Orleans' Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs and Mardi Gras Indian tribes. The centuries-old cultural groups, which number almost 150 citywide, are persistent victims of racial profiling, police abuse, harassment, illegal arrests, and intimidation.
Zachary Norris, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Baltimore, MD
Across the U.S., families of incarcerated youth have shown their capacity to organize and demand meaningful changes in the juvenile justice system. Norris will create the Justice for Families Alliance, a national effort to organize and support families of incarcerated youth.
Laurie Jo Reynolds, Chicago, IL
Reynolds, an educator, artist, and activist, will coordinate a series of educational and cultural programs to address the unintended consequences of sex offender statutes in Illinois, with the goal of developing support for new policies that lower recidivism and reduce harm.
Marie Claire Tran-Leung, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Chicago, IL
Tran-Leung will use the federal Fair Housing Act to challenge discrimination in the private rental housing market against people with criminal records.
Jesse Wegman, Brooklyn, NY
Wegman, a lawyer and journalist, will write a series of articles about jailhouse lawyers. Every day, in prisons across the country, these lawyers do the work of their counterparts on the outside: they conduct legal research, draft legal briefs, oppose government motions, and scramble to meet filing deadlines, all in the service of their clients.
Flozelle Woodmore, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles, CA
Woodmore, who served 20 years of a life sentence for killing her abusive partner, is among the rare few to have gained freedom after being sentenced to life in prison in California. Woodmore will organize friends and family members of people serving life sentences to advocate for change in the parole system.
Malcolm Young, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, IL
The economic downturn has made it even more difficult for people returning from prison to secure employment. Young's project aims to increase job opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.