Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships
The Soros Justice Fellowships fund outstanding individuals to undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system. The fellowships are part of a larger effort within the Open Society Foundations to reduce the destructive impact of current criminal justice policies on the lives of individuals, families, and communities in the U.S. by challenging the overreliance on incarceration and extreme punishment, and ensuring a fair and accountable system of justice.
The Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowships support outstanding individuals — including lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, researchers, and others with unique perspectives — to undertake U.S. criminal justice reform projects at the local, state, and national levels. Projects may range from litigation to public education to coalition-building to grassroots mobilization to policy-driven research. Advocacy Fellowships are 18 months in duration, may be undertaken with the support of a host organization, and can begin in the spring or fall of 2017.
Individuals with projects that propose, as their primary purpose, the completion of books, print or radio journalism, documentary film or video, or other similar media should apply for the Soros Justice Media Fellowships.
There are two Advocacy Fellowship tracks: Track I, which is for people in the earlier stages of their careers in the field of criminal justice reform and who demonstrate the potential to develop into leaders in the field; and Track II, which is for more experienced individuals with a proven record of achievement and expertise in the field, and who are proposing new, risky, untested, or unconventional but promising ideas and approaches. Advocacy Track I comes with an award of $85,750 over 18 months. Advocacy Track II comes with an award of $110,250 over 18 months.
We will consider projects that focus on one or more of our broad criminal justice reform goals: reducing mass incarceration, challenging extreme punishment, and promoting fairness and accountability in the justice system the United States. In our view, there are a number of things that can be done to advance these broad goals — for example, challenging the extremely long prison terms that have become the accepted norm as a response to serious and violent crimes; ending the punishment and harsh treatment of youth in the justice system; promoting police accountability; combatting prosecutors’ orientation toward harsh charging and sentencing practices; and fostering health-informed responses to drug use.
However, for the fellowships we don’t have a defined list of topics or issues that we’ll consider. Instead, we expect applicants themselves to make the case that their projects have the potential to contribute something valuable to efforts to reduce mass incarceration, challenge extreme punishment, and promote fairness and accountability in the justice system. In this way, the fellowships are designed to be flexible and open — a space for projects that build effectively on work that has come before, that explore new and creative ways of doing things, that take risks, that offer new insights and perspectives on what we thought we knew, and that teach us about what we don’t know but should.
Advocacy Track I
Advocacy Track I applicants must have at least two (2) years of relevant experience, which may include: full-time and part-time employment; paid or unpaid internships; sustained volunteer work; or other pertinent experience (e.g. advocacy while incarcerated). Advocacy Track I is for people at a range of phases in their careers, including but not limited to: people just entering the field following post-graduate education; advocates with a few years of work experience; and those beginning to work on criminal justice reform issues after a career in another field or after some other life experience. Individuals with fewer than two years’ experience should consider applying for the Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowships.
Advocacy Track I projects can — but are not required to — involve an idea or approach that is “new, risky, untested, or unconventional ” (which is a requirement for Track II projects).
Advocacy Track II
Advocacy Track II applicants must have at least ten (10) years of relevant advocacy experience. Advocacy Track II is for seasoned, established, and accomplished leaders and experts in the field — ideally people who have distinguished themselves on a local, state or national level; and who have the kind of stature, experience, and capacity necessary to have a meaningful impact on an important criminal justice reform issue.
Advocacy Track II applicants must put forth projects that represent a new, risky, untested, or unconventional but promising idea or approach. Their work should experiment and push boundaries, challenge convention, elaborate novel ways of approaching deeply entrenched and intractable problems, anticipate emerging issues, or seize upon particular opportunities in creative ways.
All applicants must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Fellowships are 18 months in duration and should begin in the spring or fall of 2017. Applicants must be able to devote at least 35 hours per week to the project if awarded a fellowship; and the project must be the applicant’s only full-time work during the course of the fellowship. Fellows cannot be full-time students during their fellowships.
Under the Advocacy Fellowship category, the fellowships do not allow multiple individuals to apply jointly for a single Advocacy Fellowship.
Past Soros Justice Fellowship Recipients
Past recipients of a Soros Justice Fellowship are not eligible to apply.
Projects Based Outside the United States
Applicants may be based outside the United States, as long as their work directly relates to a U.S. criminal justice issue.
The Soros Justice Media Fellowships support writers, print and broadcast journalists, bloggers, filmmakers, and other individuals with distinctive voices proposing to complete media projects that engage and inform, spur debate and conversation, and catalyze change on important U.S. criminal justice issues. The Media Fellowships aim to mitigate the time, space, and market constraints that often discourage individuals from pursuing vital but marginalized, controversial, or unpopular topics in comprehensive and creative ways. Media Fellowships are 12 months in duration, and fellows are expected to make their projects their full-time work during the term of the fellowship. Projects can begin in either the spring or fall of 2017. Media Fellowships come with an award of $58,700 - $78,000, depending on level of experience.
Youth Activist Fellowships
The Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowships will support outstanding individuals aged 18 – 25 to take on projects of their own design that address some aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system. Projects can range from public education and training, to grassroots organizing and policy advocacy, to social media campaigns and other forms of creative communications. Youth Activist Fellowships can be either 12 or 18 months in duration and must be undertaken in partnership with a host organization. Projects can be full-time or part-time, and can begin anytime between May and November 2017. Youth Activist Fellowships come with an award of $20,000 - $60,000 (depending on project length and time commitment), along with access to a range of training and professional development opportunities.