Post Date: January 28, 2004

Third-year Harvard Law School student O. Grace Bankole has been selected as a 2004 Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow. The fellowship funds lawyers, advocates and organizers who initiate litigation, public education, grassroots organizing and advocacy projects that will have a measurable impact on a host of criminal justice issues. Bankole intends use the two-year fellowship to create a program, Families Empowering Families, that will provide intensive legal and advocacy training to friends and families of Louisiana’s incarcerated children.

“So many of us come to law school with the desire to make a real difference in the lives of others, but over time, certain pressures adversely affect that goal,” said Bankole. “This fellowship project allows me to fulfill the purpose for which I came to law school–to use the law to empower poor, and marginalized communities of color. I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve others, and very excited about my project.”

Bankole will create the Families Empowering Families program under the auspices of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a statewide law and advocacy center dedicated to juvenile justice reform.

Bankole graduated from Cornell University, where she authored a study on the plea-bargaining system in Orleans Parish, Louisiana and a statistical examination of the charging practices of criminal prosecutors. At HLS, she has been a member of Harvard Defenders, the Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review and the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

The Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship is awarded each year by The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grantmaking foundation created and funded by George Soros. OSI’s U.S. Programs seek to strengthen democracy in the United States by addressing barriers to opportunity and justice, broadening public discussion about such barriers, and assisting marginalized groups to participate equally in civil society and to make their voices heard.