NEW YORK – The Open Society Foundations has announced an award of $1.2 million to the 2013 cohort of Soros Justice Fellows. The fellows, a mix of emerging and established leaders, include investigative journalists, lawyers, grassroots organizers, policy advocates, and scholars. Working in 9 different states and Puerto Rico, the 14 fellows will take on a range of U.S. reform issues that relate to broader Open Society efforts to curb mass incarceration, eliminate harsh punishment, and ensure justice system accountability in the U.S.
“Given the enormous challenges posed by the current realities of the criminal justice system in the United States, the importance of new voices and re-examination of its premises remains critical. I am excited to announce the 2013 Soros Justice Fellows whose efforts are fundamental to the types of changes that are needed to produce a fair, effective, and efficient system,” said Ken Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations. “We welcome their commitment, creativity, and vision.”
The new fellows include Maureen Barden, a former federal prosecutor, who will seize upon the opportunities provided by the Affordable Care Act to ensure that people returning home from prison and jail have meaningful access to health care; Kylee Sunderlin, a graduating law student, who will combat the unconscionable practice of leveling child abuse and neglect charges against pregnant women based on their enrollment in methadone maintenance treatment; and Tyrone Werts, an activist who spent two decades as president of the “lifers” organization at Pennsylvania’s maximum security Graterford Prison, who will work with other formerly incarcerated men to address the problem of crime and violence.
Other 2013 Soros Justice Fellows include Luis Trelles, an investigative journalist, who will explore the dramatic contradictions surrounding Puerto Rico’s emergence as the “death penalty capital of the Caribbean;” and Calvin Duncan, who during nearly 30 years of wrongful incarceration at Louisiana’s notorious Angola Penitentiary became a renowned “jailhouse lawyer,” and who will now help others assert their post-conviction rights.
To carry out their work, fellows receive a stipend of $58,700 to $110,250, for full-time projects lasting between 12 and 18 months. The 2013 fellows join more than 300 other individuals who, since 1997, have received support through the Soros Justice Fellowship to build more vibrant, tolerant, and inclusive democracies.
The 2013 Soros Justice Fellows
Amanda Alexander, Detroit, MI
Host: Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, Michigan Law School
Through direct legal services, client education, targeted litigation, and advocacy, Alexander will work to minimize the ways an entire family suffers when a parent is incarcerated.
Maureen Barden, Philadelphia, PA
Host: Pennsylvania Health Law Project
Barden will develop and implement model policies and practices to help realize the Affordable Care Act’s potential for vastly improving the physical and behavior health of the thousands of Pennsylvanians coming home from prison and jail each year.
Calvin Duncan, New Orleans, LA
Host: Capital Appeals Project
Duncan will seek to vindicate the post-conviction rights of people incarcerated in Louisiana prisons by increasing their access to court records and quality representation and by raising awareness around the inequities in the post-conviction process.
Tanya Erzen, Seattle, WA
Erzen will write a book describing how and why the United States has become a faith-based prison nation, and what this means for criminal justice policy and practice.
Mujahid Farid, New York, NY
Host: Correctional Association of New York
Using research, mobilization, and advocacy, Farid will address the plight of older people in New York State prisons and promote the use of mechanisms that would lead to their release.
Joshua Gravens, Dallas, TX
Gravens will educate Texas policymakers, law enforcement, the legal profession, and the general public about the harms associated with placing children on sex offense registries.
Ian Mance, Durham, NC
Host: Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Mance will use powerful and newly-available statistical evidence to expose and directly challenge the systemic practice of racial profiling in several North Carolina counties.
Marbre Stahly-Butts, Brooklyn, NY
Host: Center for Popular Democracy
Stahly-Butts will organize and support those affected by drug-related evictions in New York City to protect their rights and advocate for the end of such policies.
Jackie Sumell, New Orleans, LA
Sumell will launch a new media campaign that exposes the widespread use and abuse of solitary confinement and supports existing advocacy campaigns.
Kylee Sunderlin, New York, NY
Host: National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Sunderlin will create a network of expertly trained counsel to represent mothers facing termination of parental rights based on their enrollment in methadone maintenance treatment.
Charity Tolliver, Chicago, IL
Host: Black Youth Project, University of Chicago
Tolliver will form a grassroots campaign that challenges the policies and practices that push Illinois foster youth into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Olga Tomchin, San Francisco, CA
Host: Transgender Law Center
Tomchin will challenge the inhumane treatment of indigent transgender people in immigration detention and improve their access to quality deportation defense representation.
Luis Trelles, San Juan, PR
Trelles will produce a series of print, web-based, video, and audio pieces that describe the complications and contradictions surrounding the use of the federal death penalty in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
Tyrone Werts, Philadelphia, PA
Host: Father’s Day Rally Committee
Through workshops, community meetings, and public education, Werts will develop and promote the leadership of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men in addressing the problem of crime and violence in their communities.