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Law Professor Awarded Soros Justice Fellowship

Malcolm C. Young to research employment-related prisoner reentry in a recession

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April 15, 2010 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso
CHICAGO --- Malcolm C. Young, attorney and adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law's Bluhm Legal Clinic, was awarded a 2010 Soros Justice Fellowship to develop and implement new approaches to address the problem of prisoner reentry, announced the Open Society Institute yesterday.

Young observed firsthand the difficulties returning prisoners had finding, applying for and keeping jobs when he served as executive director from 2005 to 2009 of the Chicago-based John Howard Association of Illinois, an independent prison oversight agency that provided limited services to prisoners before and after they left prison. Young also studied employment-related prisoner reentry programs and strategies as an adjunct professor at the Bluhm Legal Clinic.

In light of the economic recession, Young has concluded that many approaches and strategies to move prisoners into jobs are not up to the challenge. For example, some programs are preparing prisoners to compete for and hold onto jobs that no longer exist. Furthermore, unemployment is concentrated in some of the same communities to which prisoners return in great numbers and among populations that are often only marginally in the labor force. For prisoners returning to some of the most underemployed communities in America, it is not that jobs are hard to get. There are almost no jobs --- and fewer jobs paying living wages, said Young.

"As a by-product of mass incarceration, governments now must successfully move large numbers of returning prisoners from incarceration into productive, living-wage employment," said Young. "The challenge of doing so has been made even more difficult by the economic recession. This fellowship supporting both research and advocacy allows me to pursue these issues."

Northwestern Law's Bluhm Legal Clinic will serve as the host organization for Young's 18-month fellowship. The clinic's law students will work with Young to conduct research and prepare briefing papers and recommendations for the public, media and policymakers.

The 2010 recipients of the Soros Justice Fellowships --- 18 lawyers, advocates, scholars and journalists --- will tackle issues ranging from racial profiling to federal immigration enforcement. The Soros Justice Fellows will receive a total of more than $1.4 million. The fellows will each receive a stipend of $45,000 to $108,750 to undertake projects lasting 12 to 18 months.

"The Soros Justice Fellows offer hope and the possibility for real and lasting change for a criminal justice system that has long been in crisis," said Ann Beeson, executive director for U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute in a statement. "Now, more than ever, we welcome their commitment and vision."

Since 1997, the Open Society Institute has awarded more than $15 million in grants to Soros Justice Fellows as part of a broader effort to curb mass incarceration and ensure a fair and equitable system of justice in the United States. George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Institute, has contributed more than $7 billion, including more than $1 billion in the United States, to foster open societies around the world.