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.
— SV De-Bug (@svdebug) October 4, 2018
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.