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Fellowships to USA Individuals for Projects to Improve the Criminal Legal System

Soros Justice Fellowships


GrantWatch ID#

Funding Source
Open Society Foundations (OSF)
Array ( )

Geographic Focus

Important Dates
Deadline: 01/31/24 11:59 pm EST Save

Grant Description
Fellowships to USA individuals for projects to improve the criminal legal system. Funding is intended for projects that encourage debate, promote reform, and create positive change at the local, state, and national levels. Applications are especially encouraged for projects that address the criminal justice issues in communities disproportionately affected by harsh criminal justice policies, as well as applications for projects that cut across various criminal justice fields and related sectors.

The Soros Justice Fellowships will consider projects that focus on any aspect of the U.S. criminal legal system—which Soros broadly sees as a set of institutions and actors (law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, and corrections) and a related set of policies, practices, narratives, and orientations that exert coercive control over individuals and communities in this country.  

There are two fellowship tracks: Track I, which is for people at the earlier stages of their careers and who demonstrate the potential to develop into leaders and important voices in their respective fields; and Track II, which is for more experienced individuals with a proven record of achievement and expertise.

Fellowship Projects:             

  • Meeting the Moment: Threats to Democracy: Soros believes that efforts to combat different aspects of mass incarceration, extreme punishment, and criminal legal system dysfunction/failure are inextricably linked to an expansive vision for an inclusive, multi-racial democracy; and that just as the criminal legal system manifests how aspirations for democracy have failed, so too can the people advancing efforts to challenge injustice define the very notion of democracy itself.   
  • Intersectional Projects: The Foundation encourages applications that demonstrate a clear understanding of how the criminal legal system intersects and interacts with the needs of low-income communities; BIPOC communities; immigrants; LGBTQ people; women and children; and those otherwise disproportionately affected by harsh or unfair criminal legal system policies and practices. Soros also welcomes projects that cut across various fields and related sectors, such as education, health and mental health, housing, and employment. 
  • Directly Affected Individuals: Soros welcomes applications from individuals directly affected by, or with significant direct personal experience with, the policies, practices, and systems their projects seek to address.

For more information about fellowship projects, see:


Additional Eligibility Criteria
The Soros Justice Fellowships support outstanding individuals—including lawyers, advocates, grassroots organizers, writers, print and broadcast journalists, artists, filmmakers, and other individuals with distinctive voices.

Track I
- 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). 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 or media makers with several years of work experience and some degree of achievement; and those beginning to work on criminal legal issues after a career in another field or after some other life experience.

Track II
- Track II applicants must have at least ten (10) years of relevant experience. Track II is for seasoned, established, and accomplished leaders and voices in the field—ideally people who have distinguished themselves on a local, state, or national level; and who have the kind of stature, record of accomplishment, experience, and capacity necessary to have a meaningful impact on the issue or issues their projects seek to take on.

All applicants must have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent.

- The fellowships do not fund enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions, including dissertation research. Also, fellows cannot be full-time students during their fellowships.
- Projects that include electioneering, lobbying, or other activity that does not fall
within IRS 501(c)3 guidelines will not be funded.

Pre-Application Information
- Application process opens: week of November 27, 2023
- Application deadline: January 31, 2024 (11:59 pm EST)
- Finalists notified: June 2024*
- Finalist interviews: July 2024*
- Selected Fellows notified: August 2024*
- Projects begin: Fall 2024
*Please note, dates subject to change

Applicants who are uncertain whether some aspect of their proposed project fits within the parameters of the fellowships guidelines or whether the project is otherwise likely to be of interest may submit an email inquiry.

Given the overlapping goals and strategies across the different fellowships, the Soros Justice Fellowships may, with applicants’ permission, refer applicants to other fellowship programs within Open Society-U.S. should they be deemed a better fit (all three fellowship programs have the same application deadline and roughly the same selection timeline).

Applicants cannot apply to more than one fellowship program.

Fellowship applicants are permitted, but not required, to carry out their fellowship projects with the support of a host organization.

Number of Grants

Estimated Size of Grant
Track I comes with a grant of $100,000 over 18 months, and Track II comes with a grant of $140,000 over 18 months (grants for both tracks are prorated for 12-month projects).

These grant amounts are all-inclusive, i.e., they are intended to cover a fellow’s living expenses, project-related expenses, travel, conference fees, health insurance, etc.

Term of Contract
Fellowships can be either 12 or 18 months in duration and should begin in the fall of 2024.

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 fellowship. Fellows cannot be full-time students during their fellowships.

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