Foundations Award Justice Pioneers

May 21, 2012, 10:48 ET from Open Society Foundations

Diverse new cohort of Soros Justice Fellows includes filmmakers, lawyers, journalists, and activists.

NEW YORK, May 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Open Society Foundations today announced an award of $1.5 million to a cohort of emerging and established leaders working to advance fairness and transparency in the U.S. criminal justice system. The 2012 Soros Justice Fellows include investigative journalists, lawyers, academics, grassroots organizers, policy advocates, and filmmakers working on a range of justice reform issues at the local, state, and national levels.

Recipients include an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and lecturer at Harvard Law School whose film will explore the groundbreaking role that states can play to further more humane and rational drug policies, and a California law student who, as a teenager and young adult, was incarcerated for armed robbery and is now a dynamic advocate for youth at risk of entering the adult system.

Other fellows include a scholar who will examine school policies that lead to the overrepresentation of black girls in the juvenile justice system as well as veteran journalists who will document and report on the use and abuse of solitary confinement in the U.S.

"Our country's rate of imprisonment is the highest in the world, and yet our criminal justice system has failed in every way whether measured by fairness or cost-effectiveness," said Diana Morris, acting executive director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations. "The problems in the current system are deeply entrenched, but the extraordinary individuals who make up the 2012 Soros Justice Fellows offer creative and meaningful solutions that can shape a more just and rational approach."

The 2012 Soros Justice Fellows will tackle issues at the core of the Open Society Foundations' work, such as addressing barriers that people face upon leaving prison, the harsh treatment of youth in the criminal justice system, and the impact of incarceration on communities of color. They will also be working on cutting edge reform efforts around the country, like projects to trim criminal justice costs in local jurisdictions and the role of architecture in social justice issues.

Fellows receive a stipend of $58,700 to $110,250 for projects lasting between 12 and 18 months. They join more than 275 other individuals who, since 1997, have received support through the Soros Justice Fellowships; and who are part of a broader Open Society Foundations effort to curb mass incarceration, eliminate harsh punishment, and ensure a fair and equitable system of justice in the United States.

2012 Soros Justice Fellows

Amanda Aronczyk, Brooklyn, NY
Aronczyk will produce a radio documentary and report on the financial barriers people face upon leaving prison and how this impacts families and communities.

Angad Bhalla, Brooklyn, NY
Documentary filmmaker Bhalla will promote his film, Herman's House, which examines the injustice of solitary confinement. The film explores the remarkable, creative journey and friendship between artist Jackie Sumell and Herman Wallace, a man who has spent 40 years in solitary confinement, longer than anyone in the history of the American penal system.

Hilda Chan, San Diego, CA
Supportive Parents Information Network
Chan will lead a grassroots campaign in San Diego County to end mandatory, unannounced, warrantless, and suspicionless home searches of people who have applied for welfare.

Jonah Engle, Washington, DC
Engle, a journalist, will investigate the economic and institutional interests that profit from the War on Drugs.

Carlos Garcia, Phoenix, AZ
Garcia, an activist and community organizer in Maricopa County, Arizona, will work to end the federal government's collaboration with local law enforcement to detain and deport immigrants.

Lynda Garcia, New York, NY
ACLU Criminal Justice Reform Project
Garcia will challenge the selective enforcement of low-level offenses against communities of color through a campaign involving public education, advocacy, and litigation.

Francis Guzman, Oakland, CA
National Center for Youth Law
Guzman will challenge the practice of prosecuting and incarcerating children in California's adult criminal justice system and advocate for alternative sentencing and local treatment for youth charged with serious offenses.

Tracy Huling, Freehold, NY
Huling will help policymakers, advocates, and community leaders identify, document, and implement effective ways to close state prisons in rural America. She will focus on best practices in the closure of prisons in rural areas, alternatives to prison industries, and successful adaptive re-use of correctional facilities.

Jessica Karp, Los Angeles, CA
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Karp will organize privacy, justice, and immigrants' rights advocates against the federal government's "Secure Communities" deportation program that is fueling record-level deportations and entangling local police in immigration enforcement. The campaign will focus on the FBI's crucial role in the program.

Beth Caldwell, San Diego, CA, and Joel Medina and Erin Siegal, Tijuana, Mexico
The team of Caldwell, Medina, and Siegal will produce a series of written and multimedia stories about the impact that mandatory, permanent deportations have on individuals, families, and communities.

Monique Morris, Oakland, CA
African American Policy Forum
Morris will research how education-related policies and practices lead to the overrepresentation of black girls in the juvenile justice system.

Ana Muniz, Los Angeles, CA
Youth Justice Coalition
Working with a broad-based coalition in Los Angeles, scholar and activist Muniz will challenge the continued and growing use of gang injunctions. Individuals typically targeted by these policies are overwhelmingly black or Latino youth, raising serious concerns of racial profiling and criminalizing young people.

Rebecca Richman Cohen, Cambridge, MA
By examining the ongoing debate in Montana around medical marijuana, documentary filmmaker Richman Cohen's Code of the West aims to ignite public discussion about how states can shift the country away from the failed War on Drugs.

James Ridgeway, Washington, DC and Jean Casella, Brooklyn, NY
Journalists Ridgeway and Casella will document and report on the use and abuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails, and youth facilities, increasing public awareness of this pervasive but hidden practice.

Lisa Riordan Seville and Hannah Rappleye, Brooklyn, NY
Journalists Riordan Seville and Rappleye will examine the nation's evolving probation systems, including the rising demand for supervision and efforts to cut criminal justice costs in local jurisdictions.

Raphael Sperry, San Francisco, CA
UC Berkeley IURD & Warren Institute
Architect and activist Sperry will engage professionals in the architecture and planning fields on the issue of mass incarceration, advocating for new priorities in public investment rather than increased prison and jail construction.

Dana Wolfe, New York, NY
New York Civil Liberties Union
Through public education and advocacy, Wolfe will work to promote a reasonable and informed dialogue about sex offender management and sexual assault prevention in the state of New York.

Azadeh Zohrabi, San Francisco, CA
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Zohrabi will work to move California away from the use of long-term solitary confinement in state prisons through impact litigation, strategic communications, and public education.

SOURCE Open Society Foundations