MMP Policy Director Hannah Sassaman Awarded 2017 Soros Justice Fellowship

Media Mobilizing Project is happy to announce that our policy director, Hannah Sassaman, has been awarded the 2017 Soros Justice Fellowship.

Hannah won this competitive fellowship, awarded to pivotal organizers, artists and activists with a major potential for accomplishing transformative social change, for her organizing around algorithmic accountability in criminal justice.  

As Philadelphia pursues major policy initiatives to decarcerate thousands, Hannah and vital community coalition partners are working to shape and limit, from an impacted community perspective, how “predictive algorithms” using race, and factors correlated with it, impact decisions about who stays locked up, and who goes home.

Asked about the Fellowship Hannah has this to say: “Media Mobilizing Project is an extraordinary home for building power with poor and working communities who demand that their voice be dominant when governments and companies make decisions about their right to dignity in a society increasingly dominated and mediated by technology. I am excited to continue to partner with our deep community across Philadelphia, and nationally with other social justice organizations through our many networks, including the Media Action Grassroots Network, to ensure that the people most impacted by algorithms in criminal justice decisionmaking have the resources they need to hold those algorithms and those implementing them accountable.”

Hannah’s fellowship comes to her and Media Mobilizing Project at a time when Philadelphia’s myriad criminal justice decisionmakers are working to lower our jail populations by an order of ⅓ over the next 2 years.  The City plans to design and implement a predictive risk assessment algorithm at pretrial arraignment, and many other jurisdictions, including New Jersey, Kentucky, and California have implemented algorithms or are in the process of pursuing them as they move to reform cash bail. Hannah’s fellowship will focus both on building communities’ ability to engage in these conversations and efforts in Philly – and to build the power of communities and civil and human rights leaders nationwide to shape and oversee if and how algorithms of this nature are designed and implemented, especially in communities of color.

MMP has been lucky to work, over the past year, with the extraordinary leaders of the movement to end cash bail, and with immigrant justice, faith, poverty, and other basebuilding groups focused on criminal justice accountability. Hannah’s careful relationship building and coalition leadership has served as an important piece of many battles – from proving that the science behind why community radio could expand was real and undeniable, to transforming how cable franchises could be used to expand access to the internet for poor people.  MMP is proud to host her for this next urgent debate – and to continue to say that everyday people have the vision and power to control the technologies governments and corporations deploy over them.

Hannah is a nationally recognized organizer for media justice.  As policy director of the Media Mobilizing Project, she leads many of the organization’s strategic campaigns, including its CAP Comcast campaign, which forced the telecom corporation to expand affordable internet to poor people in Philadelphia and beyond. She previously served as campaign director at the Prometheus Radio Project, where she helped lead the organizing and legislative strategy that resulted in the passage of the Local Community Radio Act, a bill that opened up the FM dial to thousands of community radio stations nationwide.  She has built radio stations and helped organize communities working on issues of technology, justice and the right to communicate around the world—from Pine Ridge, South Dakota to Nashville, Tennessee to Kisumu, Kenya. She sits on the board of directors of Allied Media Projects and Fight for the Future, and serves as a trustee at the Valentine Foundation. She was also was included among Philadelphia magazine’s “Best of 2016” for her work as an activist and organizer.

For more information, visit http://www.mediamobilizing.org, or read these articles:

Machine Bias, by Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner, ProPublica. May 23,2016: https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing
Technologists must do better: Drexel prof on the ethics of algorithms, Technically Philly. Sep. 30, 2016: https://technical.ly/philly/2016/09/30/kris-unsworth-ethics-algorithms/

And learn more about the rest of the 2017 Soros Justice Fellows

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/press-releases/foundations-announce-2017-soros-justice-fellows

Photo Credit: Danya Henninger

1 Comment

  1. […] “I am excited to continue to partner with our deep community across Philadelphia, and nationally with other social justice organizations through our many networks, including the Media Action Grassroots Network, to ensure that the people most impacted by algorithms in criminal justice decision-making have the resources they need to hold those algorithms and those implementing them accountable,” Sassaman said in this blog post. […]

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