Spencer Woodman of The Chicago Reader and The Investigative Fund, and the investigative team of Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch of The Miami Herald are the winners of the 13th annual John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.
“We are proud to honor these journalists for their enterprise and for the inspiring example they set for their colleagues,” said Karol V. Mason, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“They demonstrate the continuing importance of the role played by our media in today’s criminal justice debates.”
The prizes, administered by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), publisher of The Crime Report, recognize the previous year’s best print and online justice reporting in a U.S.-based media outlet between November 2016 and October 2017. 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.
Woodman won the 2018 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (single-story category) for his investigation of Chicago’s Cook County Jail. His story, produced in partnership with The Investigative Fund, entitled, “Incarcerated for Years Without Trial,” revealed backlogs in the city’s court system that left more than 1,000 inmates awaiting trial for two years or more.
Woodman’s year-long investigation, published in November, 2016, began with a Freedom of Information request that disclosed people of color account for 93 percent of those in pretrial detention for at least two years, and brought home the troubling fact that “the right to a speedy trial has become a distant dream in Chicago’s Cook County Jail,” said Esther Kaplan, Editor of The Investigative Fund, in her nomination letter. Among other responses, it prompted calls for reforms to the bail system.
Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch of The Miami Herald won the 2018 Criminal Justice reporting award (series category) for their multi-part series “Fight Club,” a six-part investigation of conditions in Florida’s juvenile justice detention centers.
“Marbin Miller and Burch documented a cavalcade of casual brutality, sexual exploitation, medical neglect and administrative incompetence,” wrote Herald senior editor Casey Frank in his nominating letter.
As a result of the “overwhelming” response to the story from the public and officials, Frank added, “juvenile justice, an afterthought for years, moved front and center on the state’s agenda heading into the spring (2018) legislative session.”
Runner-up in the single-story category was awarded to Cary Aspinwall of The Dallas Morning News for “Overlooked,” which focused on the plight of children of imprisoned parents. “Cary was able to prove that neither law enforcement nor the courts watched out for kids whose mothers went to jail,” said editor Mike Wilson, noting that Cary’s investigation, published June 22, 2017, documented a 44 percent increase in the number of women imprisoned in Texas jails over the last five years.
“The power of the narrative – a real-life ‘Moonlight’, one reader called it—helped focus attention on the flaws in the way Dallas handles pre-trial detention,” and prompted promises by county authorities to “fix a bail system that prefers to jail women rather than allow them to care for their kids,” Wilson said.
Runners-up in the series category were Sharon Cohen and Adam Geller of The Associated Press for “Locked up for Life,” a multipart examination of individuals sentenced to life without parole for crime committed as juveniles. The story, produced with contributing reporter Juliet Linderman and contributing video journalist Mike Householder, and assisted by files from AP reporters in all 50 states, was the first nationwide examination of the aftermath of the 2012 Supreme Court decision that banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles in murder cases, and the Court’s subsequent 2016 ruling that those already serving such sentences—more than 2,000—may be entitled to new sentences and a chance at freedom.
Their “relentless reporting” showed wide disparities in how the reforms mandated by the Court were implemented, said AP Enterprise Editor Pauline Arrillaga in her nominating letter, adding it has already fueled calls for “further court action.”
The jurors for the 2018 awards were: Alexa Capeloto, Associate Professor, John Jay College; Joe Domanick, Associate Director, CMCJ; Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists; Ann Givens, of The Trace; Katti Gray, contributing editor, The Crime Report; Mark Obbie, a criminal justice writer and former executive editor of American Lawyer; and Topher Sanders of ProPublica (co-winner of the 2017 Journalism Prize in the Series Category).
The awards were presented February 21, 2018 at a dinner in New York City, held in conjunction with the 13th annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America.
The dinner also honored broadcasting legend Bill Moyers as tthe 2018 “Justice Trailblazer.” Moyers’ award was presented by John Jay President Karol Mason, former NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and emcee Errol Louis of NY1.