CNN political commentator Van Jones has been selected as the 2017 Justice Media Trailblazer, an award given annually by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Crime Report to honor individuals in the media or media-related fields who have advanced national understanding on the 21st century challenges of criminal justice.
Jones, co-founder of #cut50, has been among the country’s leading voices for reducing mass incarceration. Among his other noteworthy initiatives, Jones’ advocacy organization, Dream Corps, www.dreamcorp.org connects tech sector career opportunities to under-represented people via #YesWeCode and works toward improving environmental justice via #GreenForAll.
“He’s a brilliant example of a change agent who has been able to use the power of the media to change minds and provoke a national conversation about the possibilities of reform in a criminal justice system that most experts agree is riddled with inequities,” said Stephen Handelman, executive editor of The Crime Report, and director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay.
In addition to his criminal justice activism, Jones has been prominent in environmental causes and efforts to combat racism. He is a founder of the Ella Baker Center and Color of Change. He also has served on the Board of Directors of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 1Sky, the National Apollo Alliance, Social Venture Network, Rainforest Action Network, Bioneers, Julia Butterfly Hill’s “Circle of Life” organization, and Free Press. He currently serves on the board of trustees at Demos.
A former Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress and a former Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, his work in the media has been widely recognized with awards from The Root, Ebony, and Rolling Stone,among others. In 2009 he was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
Jones was presented with the Trailblazer award on Feb 16, 2017 in a special dinner at John Jay College, following the announcement of the winners of the 12th Annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim prizes for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting, called the “Pulitzers” of criminal justice journalism.
Past Justice Trailblazer winners include David Simon of “The Wire”, “Treme”, and “Homeland”; Piper Kerman, originator of “Orange is the New Black”; NPR’s Maria Hinojosa, producer of Latino USA; and New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.