Cindy Chang and the investigative team of The Times-Picayune, and Shane Bauer of Mother Jones magazine were the winners of the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2012-2013 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards.
“We are proud to honor the reporting skills of Mother Jones and The Times-Picayune journalists,” said President Travis. “Sharp and incisive journalism is essential to broadening the nation’s understanding of the criminal justice system, especially in the areas where we have fallen short of our ideals.”
The prizes, administered by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), recognize the year’s best print and online justice reporting that has had a noteworthy impact on public policy or debate.
They were presented on February 4, 2013 at an awards dinner in New York City, held in conjunction with the 8th annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America.
The CMCJ will also honor David Simon, creator of the television series The Wire, and former Baltimore Sun reporter, for his career contribution to criminal justice journalism at the awards dinner.
Shane Bauer, an American journalist held captive in an Iranian prison for more than two years, has won the 2013 John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (single-story category) for his Mother Jones cover story, “No Way Out.” The piece, supported by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, is a powerful exposé of the use of indefinite solitary confinement in American prisons, told from the perspective of someone who understands this “living death” like no other journalist. Bauer, who had been held in solitary confinement in Iran after his arrest while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border, in Iraqi Kurdistan, uncovered an often-arbitrary system of “gang validation” that lands thousands of prisoners in solitary on “evidence” as simple as drawing stars on a Christmas card. His reporting triggered a special report by Amnesty International.
Bauer’s recognition represents the second year running that Mother Jones has been awarded the John Jay reporting prize. Trevor Aaronson won the 2011-2012 award for his groundbreaking piece “The Informants” based on an investigation into the FBI’s network of 15,000 nationwide informants charged with spying on Muslim-American communities.
Read the Mother Jones story,”No Way Out” here.
Cindy Chang’s eight-part series about the prison culture in Louisiana for The Times-Picayune won the 2012-2013 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (series category). Her series, “Louisiana Incarcerated,” documented how local governments use state subsidies for housing jail inmates to keep themselves financially afloat—a practice that has resulted in Louisiana locking up a higher percentage of its citizens than anywhere else in the world. The series fueled public support for passage of a state bill making some nonviolent offenders eligible for earlier parole. The other writers on the series were Jan Moller, John Simerman and Jonathan Tilove.
Read The Times-Picayune series, “Louisiana Incarcerated” here.
“The news media in the U.S. rarely devote the effort to examining the nation’s high incarceration rate and its considerable costs,” commented Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists, one of the six prize judges. “The Times-Picayune did an excellent job of dissecting how forces in the criminal justice system and the economy help produce Louisiana’s sky-high price of punishment.”
Runner-up in the single-entry category was awarded to Sarah Stillman of The New Yorker Magazine for “The Throwaways,” which investigated the treatment and abuses of confidential informants. Brian Haynes, Alan Maimon, Lawrence Mower, and James Wright of the Las Vegas Review Journal were runners-up in the series category for ““Deadly Force: When Las Vegas Police Shoot, and Kill,” which raised questions about the circumstances surrounding several cases of officer-involved shootings in the city.
“These awards prove that even in the current climate of strained resources for the media, good reporters still make a difference,” said CMCJ Director Stephen Handelman. “This year, we received the highest number of entries in the eight-year history of our prize.”
The 2013 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards, presented annually by the John Jay College Center on Media, Crime and Justice, recognize work published by U.S.-based print and online journalists between November 2011 and October 2012. The prize comes with a cash award of $1,000 in each category and a plaque. Runners-up receive a certificate of Honorable Mention.
The distinguished panel of six judges for the 2012-2013 awards included Gina Barton, criminal justice reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and 2011-2012 John Jay/HF Guggenheim prizewinner; Alexa Capeloto, assistant professor of journalism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former Enterprise Editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune; Joe Domanick, veteran Los Angeles-based crime author and reporter and Associate Director at the CMCJ; Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists; and Maurice Possley, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Chicago Tribune journalist.