Several journalists won Polk Awards this week from Long Island University for stories involving criminal justice. An award for medical reporting went to Lenny Bernstein, Scott Higham and David Fallis of the Washington Post for tracing lax regulation of the distribution of narcotic painkillers by the Drug Enforcement Administration, despite rampant addiction and nearly 180,000 deaths in the U. S. since 2000, to pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and allies in Congress and the Justice Department. Christie Thompson of The Marshall Project and Joseph Shapiro of National Public Radio got the justice reporting award for reporting on double solitary confinement. The reporters found 17 cases of one inmate killing another after both were confined to a tiny cell 23 hours a day.
The award for local reporting went to Darwin Bond Graham and Ali Winston of the weekly East Bay Express for exposing a criminal sex scandal in the Oakland Police Department that led up the ranks and cost three police chiefs their jobs in a single week. The revelations in the face of municipal efforts to downplay the case compelled authorities to acknowledge the extent of police corruption. The George Polk Awards are given annually, placing a premium on investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results. They were established in 1949 to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.