Legal Studies Program

Research Opportunities — Fellowships and Funding

Jane Kahn '77 Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Jane Kahn '77 Undergraduate Research Fellowship Application

Fellowship providing up to two students $2,500 each for research on current and emerging issues in criminal justice reform including the rights of individuals with mental illness, disability and socio-psychological factors frequently associated with incarceration.

Undergraduate students are invited to submit proposals for Jane Kahn Undergraduate Research Fellowship. This fellowship will award up to two undergraduates $2,500 each for spring semester projects examining current and emerging issues in criminal justice reform and the rights of individuals with mental illness, disability, and socio-psychological factors frequently associated with incarceration. Projects may be purely research-based, or may be hands-on initiatives that the students develops and implements in the community. 

This fellowship honors the memory of Jane Kahn, a 1977 graduate of Brandeis University who dedicated her life fighting for the rights of individuals incarcerated in California prison system. Jane, along with husband Michael Bien ’77, spent almost two decades litigating a class action civil rights lawsuit on behalf of mentally ill inmates in California. That case, Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, argued that the treatment of mentally ill inmates in California prisons was constitutionally deficient due to extreme overcrowding and inhumane treatment. After prevailing in the lower court, the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision and ordered the State of California to reduce its prison population by 30,000.

You can read more about Jane, Michael, and their work on this case here.

Jane and Michael were honored at Brandeis in 2011, and provided the Joshua A. Guberman Lecture entitled “Representing Prisoners with Serious Mental Illness Trapped in a Nightmare: The California Prison Overcrowding Case."  It is in the spirit of this work, and Jane’s dedication to her clients, that this fellowship was established.

How to Apply:

Students should submit proposals to the Legal Studies Program by emailing program administrator Melissa McKenna. Proposals should include the following information:

  • Cover sheet that includes the title of the proposal, the applicant’s name, undergraduate class or expected date of graduate degree, mailbox, phone number, and email address;
  • Two- to three-page description of the proposed project, how it connects to the spirit of the Fellowship, and how it fits into the applicant’s program of study;
  • Summary of the applicant’s qualifications to conduct this project;
  • Name of any community partners the applicant will work with to accomplish this project, and a description of the partner’s relevance to the project; and
  • Letter of recommendation from the faculty member overseeing the applicant’s project commenting on the feasibility of the proposed project as well as the applicant’s ability to conduct the work proposed.

Faculty in the Legal Studies Program will evaluate submissions and select up to two successful candidates. The awardees will be announced in late December 2023.

Jane Kahn '77 Fellowship Awardees
Spring 2024:
Eamonn Golden '24: Ghost in the Machine: An Analysis of Bias in Sentencing Recommendations by Artificial Intelligence Against Individuals with a MHC.
Meli Jackson '25: Incarcerated Identities; Prison Writing and the Reclamation of Humanity.
Spring 2023:

Micah RothKopf, '23 and Joshua Gladstone, '23 Reclaiming Humanity in an Inhumane System: The Reintegration Experience for Ex-Incarcerated Individuals with Disabilities.

Summer 2022:

Natalie Omori-Hoffe, '25 A Comparative Case Analysis of the Institutional Betrayal and Harms Between Inpatient Psychiatric Hospitals and Prisons.

Summer 2021:

Adah Anderson, '24  Analyzing the Effects of Mental Illness Treatment on Suicide and Recidivism Rates in Federal, State, and Private Prisons in Connecticut, Florida and North Carolina.

Leah Fernandez, '22  Investigating Educational Access for Incarcerated Juveniles with Disabilities in Massachusetts.

Caroline O, '22  Podcasting and Theater as Diversionary Programs.