Recent graduate Leyla Martinez ’18 has been selected as a 2018 Soros Justice Fellow, and will receive a generous stipend to support her work advocating for criminal justice reform.
Martinez endeavors to create a coalition of Latinas who have been impacted by the criminal legal system, Latinas Organizing our Voices for Equality and Justice (LOVE & Justice). The coalition will work to change public attitudes and policymaking, adding their voices to discourse surrounding mass incarceration by participating in panel discussions at conferences, academic institutions, and public events. The organization will also create and distribute a report with the aim of shaping programs and policies.
“The Latinx population is woefully underrepresented when policies, programs, and practices relating to criminal justice reform are discussed, proposed, and implemented. They have been marginalized in these conversations because of the stigma they face in their communities. As a formerly incarcerated Latina mother, I have firsthand knowledge of the extreme challenges that women face as a result of this stigma and shame within the Latinx culture,” Martinez said. “They need the support of other women to become visible and share their views publicly.”
In addition to adding a stronger Latinx presence to the conversation, LOVE & Justice will work to reduce recidivism by developing and distributing a database of resources to empower formerly-incarcerated Latinas to pursue higher education, find employment, start their own companies, and develop leadership skills.
The 2018 fellows comprise a group of community organizers, journalists, lawyers, policy advocates, and artists, who will receive stipends up to $120,000 for full-time projects that will last between 12 and 18 months and seek to advance reform and encourage discussion surrounding issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system.
Martinez, who majored in human rights at GS, is a graduate of the Justice-in-Education Initiative at Columbia University. She is the founder of the Beyond the Box Initiative, a student organization for current and prospective students who have been impacted by mass incarceration, and has served as a criminal reform advisor to LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She is also a member of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, a Program for Academic Leadership and Service Scholar, Gilman Scholar, Joey O’Loughlin Scholar, Mother’s Day Scholar, Women’s Forum Education Fund Fellow, Beyond the Bars Fellow, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability Fellow, and Women’s Independence Scholar.