Beth Schwartzapfel of The Marshall Project, and an investigative reporting team from the Belleville News-Democrat—Beth Hundsdorfer, George Pawlaczyk and Zia Nizami—are the winners of the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2016 Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.
“The impressive work of these journalists illustrates why reform of our criminal justice system has risen to the top of our national agenda,” said Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in the prize announcement on Jan. 25.
“We are proud to honor them as examples of the critical role the media is playing—and continues to play—in our ongoing national debate.”
The 2016 annual prizes, administered by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ)—publisher of The Crime Report, recognized the year’s best print and online justice reporting in a U.S.-based media outlet between November 2014 and October 2015. Winners receive a cash award of $1,000 in each of the two categories and a plaque. Runners-up (see below) receive a certificate of Honorable Mention.
The 2016 winners:
Beth Schwartzapfel of The Marshall Project won the 2016 John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (single-story category) for “Life Without Parole,” a lengthy investigation into parole boards across the country. Schwartzapfel’s story, marked “the first time that basic information about our nation’s patchwork of parole boards has been compiled in one place,” The Marshall Project editor Bill Keller said in his nomination letter.
The story, also published in partnership with The Washington Post on their front page, uncovered a system marked by secrecy and political manipulation that is one of the overlooked contributing factors to America’s high incarceration rate.
Beth Hundsdorfer, George Pawlaczyk and Zia Nizami of the Belleville News-Democrat won the 2016 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (series category) for their multi-part series “Violation of Trust.” The News-Democrat team found that of some 6,744 felony rape cases in southern Illinois between 2005-2013, 70 percent never made it to a courtroom, and just one in ten charged suspects were actually imprisoned. As a result of the series, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in April formed a task force to overhaul the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes statewide.
The series “stood out as an impressive example of the power of dogged reporting and insightful writing to hold institutions accountable and precipitate change,” commented Glenn Smith, a past winner of the journalism prize and one of this year’s prize jurors.
Runner-up in the single-story category was awarded to Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring of ProPublica for “Hotter than Lava,” which found that at least 50 Americans, including police officers, have been seriously injured, maimed or killed by “flashbangs” – a little-noticed dimension of the growing militarization of law enforcement across the country.
Runner-up in the series category was awarded to the reporting team of Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland and Jamiles Lartey of The Guardian US, who earned the judges’ praise for “The Counted,” a (still-ongoing) multi-media investigation of police-inflicted fatalities in the U.S. Among other disclosures, The Guardian US reported that African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as whites.
The six judges for the 2016 awards were:
- Alexa Capeloto, Assistant Professor of Journalism at John Jay College and a former Enterprise Editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune;
- Joe Domanick, veteran Los Angeles-based crime journalist and author;
- Baz Dreisinger, acclaimed author and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and founder of John Jay’s Prison-to-College Pipeline program;
- Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists;
- Katti Gray, contributing editor of The Crime Report;
- Glenn Smith, investigative reporter at the Charleston Post & Courier and a 2015 John Jay/HF Guggenheim prize winner.
The award is supported by a grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, a private grant-making foundation that supports research on violence.
Award Dinner and Symposium
The awards were presented on February 25, 2016 at a dinner in New York City. The college will also present Jelani Cobb, Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut and contributor to The New Yorker, with the 2016 John Jay Justice Trailblazer Prize at the awards dinner, in recognition of his career accomplishments in broadening the national debate about criminal justice.