Soros Justice Fellows: The Power of One

The Soros Justice Fellowships Program, which last week announced its 2011 fellowship awards, subscribes to a few, pretty straightforward principles.

First, we believe that one person with one idea, at one moment in time, under the right circumstances, can make a difference. And with the bulk of resources within the Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs directed toward social justice organizations, the fellowships remain an especially important vehicle for supporting individual voices and perspectives.

Second, we believe that no single approach to an issue holds a monopoly on effectiveness. For this reason, the fellowships support individuals employing a range of methods: community organizing and mobilization, litigation, policy-driven research and analysis, investigative journalism, documentary film, and public education, among others.

And third, we believe that people at all stages and phases of their careers have a role to play in any movement for change. As a result, the fellowships program is deliberate in its effort to support both new and emerging leaders, as well as those who have long track records of achievement.

Taken together, these basic principles have resulted, each year since the program’s founding in 1997, in the selection of exciting and eclectic mixes of investigative journalists, lawyers, grassroots organizers, policy advocates, filmmakers, and others, who collectively have worked on a multitude of criminal justice reform issues at the local, state, and national levels.

For 2011, the cohort includes projects that address several issues at the core of the Criminal Justice Fund’s work, reflecting our long-standing commitment to the field in particular areas: the intersection of mental health and justice involvement (Sara Zier), harsh treatment of youth in the system (Sonia Kumar, Nicole Pittman), post-incarceration opportunities and support (Benay Rubenstein, Mary Heinen), and the impact of incarceration on specific communities (Michelle Tyon, Gail Tyree, Wesley Ware).

The 2011 cohort—which is exceptionally diverse and contains several people who’ve been directly impacted by this country’s harsh carceral system (Heinen, John Thompson, Tarsha Jackson, Michelle Tyon, Gail Tyree)—also includes projects that address other critical reform issues, such as the growing merger of criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems in several southern states (Grey Torrico, Jacinta Gonzalez Goodman, Lena Graber); key issues and disturbing trends in policing practices (Richard Rivera, Hamid Khan); the past, present and future of this country’s “war on drugs” (Eugene Jarecki); and troubling new aspects of the School-to-Prison-Pipeline (Chandra Thomas).

Moreover, given that threats to an open society are not solely the province of one arm or division of the Open Society Foundations, several 2011 fellows will take on work that is relevant not only to the Criminal Justice Fund, but also that cuts across multiple U.S. funds and campaigns, from the ongoing “war on terror” (Petra Bartosiewicz, Hamid Khan), which is of interest to our National Security and Human Rights Campaign; to immigrant rights (Torrico, Gonzalez, Graber) and LGBTQ equality (Ware), two areas of focus for our Equality and Opportunity Fund.

We’re thrilled at the prospect of these individuals becoming part of the community of Soros Justice Fellows and expect that they will make vital contributions to the field of criminal justice reform, as well as to the larger interest of the foundation in addressing core threats to open society in the United States.

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The Soros Justice Fellowships flow from what may be the only FONT of fundamental justice studies on earth today. They encourage vital approaches to discovering, and potentially solving, deep social ills that have been kicked under the rug. It's a pleasure to see how strategically the Fellowships have been awarded in 2011, as if to a set of original thinkers with related projects tending toward a promising complete outcome.

I can hardly wait to see Jarecki's results; but the results produced by all Fellows should be enlightening.

The Soros Foundations provide for a great river of abundance to carry GOOD WORKS into the world, bringing new life to what had become "The Waste Land" for almost a century. Today, at least, even a cynic might suppose that all is not quite lost.

So, "Let us now praise famous men" in our time. Unlike Oppenheimer become the "destroyer of worlds," GEORGE SOROS has become the "renewer of worlds" through his uncommon generosity in funds, ideas, and perseverance, delivered through the exceptionally good workers of The Soros Foundations.

Just credit where it's due. You have given hope EVEN to me (against my will). Thank you.

(Disclaimer: I have never been, nor am I now, in the employ of The Soros Foundations or any entity connected with George Soros or the Foundations.)

I believe that no society can function without a system of justice, criminal and civil. Innocent people should not be punished for crimes they did not commit. There are obviously people incarcerated, that should not be, as there are people free that should be incarcerated. False testimony, or false evidence, that leads to a conviction, when discovered, should be prosecuted, with no statute of limitation. A lot of crime could be averted with an unemployment rate below 3%. When factors and conditions are arranged to make a person a criminal, when the accused had no intent to commit a crime, the creator(s) of those conditions or factors should be subject to criminal prosecution. Success rates and recidivism rates for each form of criminal rehabilitation, should be regularly published in print, and electronically. Actual education will lower the crime rate.
Thanks for your efforts, and the forum.

Your programme, and the fellows whom you have chosen, cheer my heart. It seems that, all over our troubled world, justice has gone wild. The Soros Foundations are a source of hope for so many of us. I can only congratulate you, yet again.

My very best wishes to you, Mr. Soros, all who work with you, and the fine new fellows you have just announced.

diana m. de marco
Umbria, Italy

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