Silicon Valley De-Bug’s Raj Jayadev Awarded Prestigious MacArthur Fellowship

San Jose community organizer Raj Jayadev has been named a 2018 MacArthur Fellow for his work with Silicon Valley De-Bug, a nonprofit he co-founded to help low-income families navigate the criminal justice system.

The 43-year-old South Bay leader was one of 25 recipients of the prestigious fellowship, known as a “Genius Grant.” He was chosen for his extraordinary contributions to his field and particularly for spearheading “participatory defense,” which helps families and public defenders improve their odds of winning cases or reducing sentences.

Past MacArthur fellow have included Stanford University professor Jennifer Eberhardt and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The fellowship will pay Jayadev $625,000 over the next five years to advance his work. Jayadev helped launch De-Bug in 2001, initially as an ethnic news publication named after Silicon Valley assembly line workers who would “debug” faulty products.

The organization shifted its focus on criminal justice in 2004, after police fatally shot construction worker Rodolfo Cardenas after mistaking him for a fugitive. In the years since, it has become a hub of activism and community organizing, spawning projects involving a range of causes, from political advocacy to public art.

De-Bug has traveled throughout the U.S. to train other social-justice groups in participatory defense, which has since taken root in Nashville, Philadelphia, San Diego and New York City. To date, the project has reduced potential prison sentences for clients by a combined 4,000 years.

Click here to read more about this year’s fellows. And here to read our past coverage of the participatory defense program.

7 Comments

  1. > Past MacArthur fellow have included Stanford University professor Jennifer Eberhardt and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    Past MacArthur fellows have NOT included famous San Jose Insider blogger SJOutsideTheBubble.

    I know a snub when I see it.

  2. $625k to help individuals facing incarceration would be better spent helping their victims recover from the crimes perpetrated on them by Raj’s favorite criminals.

  3. Rudy Cardenas was a drug dealer and convicted felon, like most of De-Bug’s membership. It’s a disservice to imply he mistakenly shot in the way that sentence was written… Cardenas was a fugitive from a drug sales investigation at the time of the incident, he just wasn’t the same fugitive running through backyards that the Feds thought he was.

    My opinion is Raj was recognized as a standout in the usual anti- police circles because he hasn’t been convicted- yet.

  4. I always dismissed Silicon Valley De-bug as radicals, but the Macarthur Fellowship gives them real credibility (everyone knows the genuis grant).

    Change is complex but these folks, on balance, have been a force for good.

    • > I always dismissed Silicon Valley De-bug as radicals, but the Macarthur Fellowship gives them real credibility (everyone knows the genuis grant).

      It just says that the hard left has co-opted the Macarthur Fellowship.

      The Left is constantly trying to co-opt every institution that has credibility.

      The current spectacular example is the Catholic Church. Pope Francis sounds more like Karl Marx and Al Gore than Jesus.

  5. Kudos to Raj. I think this award is very well deserved. Raj has always advocated for the down and out and underrepresented who are at the mercy of a government that often means well but is stymied by bureaucracy and process.

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