Shane Bauer of Mother Jones, and the investigative reporting team of Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders of ProPublica are the winners of the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2017 Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.
“At this critical time in criminal justice, the work of journalists has never been more important,” said John Jay College President Jeremy Travis. “We are proud to honor these reporters for their hard work, dedication and commitment—and for the inspiring example they set for their colleagues.”
The prizes, administered by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), recognize the previous year’s best print and online justice reporting in a U.S.-based media outlet between November 2015 and October 2016. Winning entries in each of the two categories share a cash award of $1,500 and a plaque. Runners-up (see below) receive a certificate of Honorable Mention.
Links to the winning stories and jurors are below.
|About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit
The Center on Media, Crime and Justice, established at John Jay College in 2006, is the nation’s only practice- and research-oriented think tank devoted to encouraging and developing high-quality reporting on criminal justice. Publisher of The Crime Report, it promotes better-informed public debate on the complex 21st century challenges of law enforcement, public security and justice in a globalized urban society.
The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation sponsors scholarly research on problems of violence.
Shane Bauer of Mother Jones has won the 2017 John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (single-story category) for “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard” an extended account of his tenure as a $9-an-hour guard at a Louisiana facility operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. “The world of corporate-run prisons (which house nine percent of the nation’s inmates) has been shrouded in secrecy,” wrote the magazine’s editors in their nominating letter. “The immediate and overwhelming response to [his] investigation made it clear that Bauer’s report had exposed the private prison industry in a way that hadn’t been done before.”
This is the second time Bauer has won the nation’s only criminal justice journalism award. He won the single-story category honor for his 2012 Mother Jones article, “No Way Out,” an investigation into the practice of classifying prison inmates as “gang associates” and sending them to solitary confinement.
Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders of ProPublica won the 2017 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (series category) for their multi-part series “Busted,” an investigation of the systematic misuse of roadside chemical field tests by police.
“Tens of thousands of Americans (are) jailed each year based on $2 police drugs kits known to be unreliable,” wrote Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, in his nominating letter.
The reporters spent months tracking down individual cases and analyzing the data—and turned up hard evidence of wrongful convictions.
Among the responses to Gabrielson’s and Sanders’ reporting, The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office in Portland, Ore. overturned five wrongful drug convictions it had failed to notice in which defendants pleaded guilty based on inaccurate field test results; and in December, the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, part of the Texas judiciary, called for research and reforms to address field tests’ flaws.
Runner-up in the single-story category was awarded to Eli Hager and Alysia Santo of The Marshall Project for “Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport.” Their seven-month investigation uncovered a “deadly world that operates with virtually no oversight,” wrote TMP editor Bill Keller. The story was simultaneously published on the front page of The New York Times.
In the series category, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Baltimore Sun tied for the runner-up slot. The Post-Gazette’s Michael A. Fuoco was honored by the judges for his five-part account, “What Cost Freedom?“—an examination of the case of Lewis Jim Fogle, exonerated in 2015 after serving 34 years for a murder he did not commit. The series led to a “call to action” for compensation for the wrongfully convicted, including the strengthening of lobbying efforts by Innocence Projects in Pennsylvania and New York, said Assistant Managing Editor Virginia Linn in her nominating letter.
The Baltimore Sun
The Baltimore Sun’s Justin George was honored for his year-long investigation, “Shoot to Kill,” of fatal shootings in major U.S. cities. “George revealed an impossibly knotted web of violence that will leave readers despairing, but well-informed,” said juror Beth Schwartzapfel.
Jurors for the 2017 awards were:
Alexa Capeloto, Associate Professor, John Jay College; Joe Domanick, Associate Director, CMCJ; Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists; Katti Gray, contributing editor, The Crime Report; Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project (2016 winner); Monica Varsanyi, Associate Professor, John Jay College; and Alberto Vourvoulias, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The awards were presented February 16, 2017 at a dinner in New York City, held in conjunction with the 12th annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America. The dinner also honored CNN’s Van Jones as the 2017 “Justice Trailblazer.” Jones’ award was presented by CNN’s Don Lemon and emcee Errol Louis of NY1.