NEW YORK CITY—A wrongfully convicted death row inmate to write about the profound need for reform, an epidemiologist to document the public health repercussions of imprisoning more than two million people, and a young woman paralyzed by a drunk driver on a mission to mobilize crime survivors for safer communities and a more humane, effective justice system are just three of this year's 2004 Open Society Institute Soros Justice Fellows.
This year's 22 newly selected Soros Justice Media, Senior, and Advocacy fellows include distinguished scholars, journalists, the longest tenured death row inmate to be freed, advocates, lawyers, and community leaders.
The fellowships, totaling $1,558,600 in grants, support dynamic individuals working to restore fairness and discretion to the U.S. criminal justice system and reflect OSI's commitment to systemic reform. The new fellows join 150 others selected since OSI established the Soros Justice Fellowship program in 1997.
OSI fellows conduct one- and two-year projects and receive stipends ranging from $20,000 to $97,200. The one-year Media Fellowship funds journalists working in print, photography, radio, and documentary film to improve the quality of media coverage of incarceration and criminal justice; the one-year Senior Fellowship supports seasoned academics, lawyers and community leaders to raise the level of national discussion and prompt policy debate around incarceration and criminal justice; and the two-year Advocacy Fellowship funds outstanding lawyers, advocates, and organizers who initiate litigation, public education, grassroots organizing, and advocacy projects that will have a measurable impact on a host of criminal justice issues.
The 2004 Soros Justice Media, Senior and Advocacy Fellows are listed below in alphabetical order by program.
Soros Justice Media Fellow Awards
Emily Bazelon, J.D., senior editor, Legal Affairs; New Haven, Connecticut
To write articles about the shifting balance of power among judges, juries, and prosecutors in sentencing defendants to make federal sentences more punitive.
David Dent, M.S., journalist and journalism professor at New York University; New York City
To write a book about his elementary school classmate who is serving a life sentence in a New York state prison. Dent will explore how underfunded mental health services in middle and low-income minority communities impact crime rates, the relationships that develop between older and younger inmates, and the economic and social implications of building prisons in rural communities.
David Feige, J.D., writer and public defender; New York City
To write and record a series of commentaries on National Public Radio and to complete a book about indigent defense drawing on the voices of public defenders and low-income defendants.
Steve Liss, photojournalist; Oak Park, Illinois
To document, through photography and audio recordings, the experiences of incarcerated children, their families, and correction facilities staff members.
Leslie Neale, documentary filmmaker; Santa Monica, California
To complete and conduct outreach around her documentary film Juvies, about juveniles being prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to adult prisons in California.
Mary Beth Pfeiffer, journalist; Stone Ridge, New York
To investigate the growth of the mentally ill prison population in various states and to examine treatment options and opportunities for reform.
Soros Justice Senior Fellows Awards
Kerry Cook, former death row prisoner; Woodstock, New York
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 national criminal justice reform. Cook's story was featured in the critically acclaimed play The Exonerated.
Ernest Drucker, Ph.D., epidemiologist; New York City
To develop a public health model for understanding the deleterious impact and social consequences of mass incarceration, particularly on urban communities throughout the United States.
Maurice Emsellem, J.D., policy director of the National Employment Law Project; Oakland, California
To 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.
Cheryl Graves, J.D., M.P.H., law professor, child lawyer, and youth advocate; Chicago, Illinois
To work with community and juvenile court leaders to organize, train, educate, and advocate for juvenile justice reform in two high-crime urban areas in Chicago.
Richard Leo, Ph.D., J.D., associate professor, University of California at Irvine, and Tom Wells, Ph.D., M.A., writer and visiting scholar, University of Colorado. Both are experts on police-induced confessions and interrogation practices.
To complete a study on a multiple-false-confession murder case in Virginia that led to the wrongful conviction of four innocent men.
Margaret Love, J.D., M.A., former U.S. pardon attorney; Washington, D.C.
To 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 prisoner re-entry and reintegration.
Clive Stafford-Smith, J.D., capital litigator; New Orleans, Louisiana
To organize a coalition to promote enforcement of constitutional and human rights in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (home of a U.S. military base and prison); to produce a best-practices manual for litigating the cases before military commissions; and to write about a selection of Guantanamo prisoners.
Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow Awards
Neelum Arya, J.D., M.P.A., lawyer, Youth Law Center; San Francisco, California
To 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). Arya will work to prevent youth incarceration, improve the conditions of confinement for children, and inform public policy on trying juveniles as adults.
O. Grace Bankole, J.D., lawyer, Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; New Orleans, Louisiana
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 in the justice system.
Arwen Bird, B.S., community organizer, Western Prison Project; Portland, Oregon
Bird, paralyzed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, will mobilize crime survivors in Washington state and Nevada to break down the dichotomy between victims and offenders and work towards safer communities and a more humane, effective justice system that promotes prevention over retribution.
Melissa Bradley, M.B.A., community organizer, Fifth Avenue Committee; New York City (borough of Brooklyn)
To 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 home from prison each year.
Roberta Franklin, community organizer and radio talk show host, Justice Policy Institute; Montgomery, Alabama
To conduct a public education campaign and mobilize grassroots groups in four cities in Alabama around sentencing reform, improved conditions in corrections facilities, and alternatives to incarceration.
Andrea Keilen, J.D., lawyer, ACLU of Texas; Austin, Texas
Keilen will research and expose prosecutorial misconduct in the Texas criminal justice system and produce a comprehensive evaluation of statistical and anecdotal evidence of deliberate attempts by prosecutors to circumvent the law.
Alexander Lee, community organizer and activist, Justice Now; San Francisco, California
To alleviate the abuse of transgender and gender variant prisoners in California by providing alternative sentencing and mitigation services to those detained in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Andrea Marsh, J.D., lawyer, ACLU of Texas; Austin, Texas
To protect indigent defense in Texas by monitoring the state's Fair Defense Act (FDA), which requires judges to meet certain minimum standards when appointing qualified counsel. Through outreach and public education, Marsh will work with county officials on the FDA's requirements and initiate litigation against counties in violation of the policy.
Richard Schmechel, advocate, Public Defender Service; Washington D.C.
To further educate defense attorneys in the District of Columbia to fully understand DNA technology with the goal of bringing reliable science into the courtroom to better protect the innocent.