2022 Harry Frank Guggenheim Prizes for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting @ John Jay College

Submissions are welcome for the 17th annual John Jay College of Criminal Justice/Harry Frank Guggenheim Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting. The final deadline for submission this year has been extended to November 15, 2021

*Details about the awards, and how to submit entries are below.


The prizes have been awarded annually since 2005 in two categories (Best Single Story and Best Series) for work published or posted in U.S. print, magazine and online media that has had a significant impact on criminal justice debate and policy.

The prestigious $2,000 awards, unofficially called the “Pulitzers” of crime and justice journalism, are the only national journalism awards of their type, and are formally presented as part of the annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Next year’s symposium and awards will take place in March, 2022 as a “virtual” event, in accordance with COVID restrictions determined by the John Jay/CUNY. Prizewinners will be announced in January, 2022.

The awards, administered by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay, honor  investigative, feature, analytical, and enterprise journalism on criminal justice and related issues., and are judged by a panel of leading journalists and educators.

Jurors will award a first and second prize in each category. Winners of the second prize or runners-up will received a prize certificate and will be invited to join the awards ceremony and related events.

Click here for entry form 



Information about eligibility, criteria,  fees and past winners below.

ELIGIBILITY: To be eligible for the prizes, work must be published in a newspaper, magazine or online news outlet in the U.S. (broadcast work is eligible if it contains a significant online dimension) between November 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021.

CRITERIA: The awards honor enterprise, analytical and investigative reporting that has had a demonstrated impact on public understanding or public policy (local or national) in any area related to criminal justice. Spot news stories may qualify if they advance the above criteria. Each submission can only be entered in one category, but multiple submissions from the same news outlets are accepted.

All submissions must include a nominating letter from a supervising editor providing details that can help the judges assess the impact and significance of the work.

Questions about eligibility and criteria should be directed to Prize Coordinator Wren Longno at

DEADLINE [for 2022 awards]: NOVEMBER 15, 2021

COST OF ENTRY: $90 per submission.

The annual prizes are supported by a grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.

For questions about the prize, please contact Prize Administrator Wren Longno at,  Ricardo Martinez, at; or Stephen Handelman, at 

2021 Winners

 Single Story

Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu, reporting for Mississippi Today and The Marshall Project, share the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (Single-Story Category) for exposing Mississippi’s practice of forcing individuals convicted of low-level felony offenses to work off their fines and other court debts at low-wage jobs during the day while they are confined in locked facilities at night until the debts are paid.

Anna Wolfe

Their story, “Think Debtors Prisons are a Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi,” revealed that Mississippi’s four so-called “restitution centers” effectively serve as debtors’ prisons, with some individuals confined for as long as five years while they work at low-wage, dangerous jobs such as slaughtering chickens or gutting catfish, the story found. Most of the money they earn in fact goes to pay “room and board” at the centers, driving a vicious cycle of incarceration and debt that “penalizes the poorest residents of the poorest state in the country,” University of Mississippi professor Cliff Johnson was quoted as saying in the story.

Michelle Liu

Michelle Liu

Wolfe and Liu, who interviewed more than 50 current and formerly incarcerated people for the piece, worked closely with senior investigative editor Leslie Eaton at The Marshall Project to develop and report the story. TMP’s Andrew Calderon assisted in the examination of hundreds of pages of court documents and transcripts of hearings, as well as analyzing a database of sentencing orders so readers could see how much people owed to prove that they were sentenced for money, rather than time.

“Our first-of-its-kind data analysis and in-depth reporting immediately made waves,” Susan Chira, TMP Editor-in-Chief, said in a letter accompanying the submission, noting that the reporters’ findings were widely publicized in local and national media and led to the filing of several bills in the state legislature to close down the centers.

The Mississippi Today investigation has been recognized elsewhere. In February the story won the Sidney Award, and in September, it was also honored with the Online News Association’s Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award.

Download the Mississippi Today/The Marshall Project article here.


The reporting staff of ProPublica won the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (Series Category) for “The NYPD Files,” an investigation that documented how seldom allegations about excessive use of force by the New York Police Department (NYPD) resulted in serious discipline. The ProPublica team—including Eric Umansky, Joaquin Sapien, Topher Sanders, Mollie Simon, Moiz Syed, Derek Willis, Lena Groeger, Adriana GallardoJoshua Kaplan and Lucas Waldron—created an online database based on records held by the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, revealing for example that in 2018, the most recent year when complete data were available, only 73 of 3,000 allegations of force were substantiated.

The publication of police disciplinary records, which had been largely unavailable to the public, opened “an unprecedented window to one of the most opaque disciplinary systems in American policing,” and demonstrated how “a veneer of civilian oversight belies the reality that America’s largest police force largely disciplines itself,” ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg said in a letter accompanying the submission.

The database quickly became a resource for investigations by other media and was viewed nearly a million times by ordinary New Yorkers, Engelberg added. “The information in it, which we made available for free on our Data Store, is our most-downloaded dataset of all time.”

Subsequent reporting in the series probed specific examples of questionable disciplinary proceedings in partnership with THE CITY, another nonprofit news outlet. Among its findings: several high-ranking NYPD officers had been repeatedly promoted despite “long records of serious civilian complaints.”

Download the ProPublica series here

The 2021 Runners-Up

hannah dreier

Hannah Dreier

Runner-Up in the Single-Story Category was awarded to The Washington Post, which revealed that the results of therapy sessions with undocumented migrant children were shared with U.S. immigration authorities for possible use in court proceedings against them. The story by Post reporter Hannah Dreier, entitled “Trust and Consequences,” was based on a year-long investigation that included examining hundreds of pages of court documents and immigration files. Dreier told her story through the eyes of a Honduran teenager named Kevin Euceda, who was held in detention for over two years on the grounds that he represented a danger, based on information shared from supposedly confidential interviews with a government therapist. Publication triggered the introduction of bills in Congress that would ban such information-sharing, as well as calls for oversight hearings into what the American Psychological Association called a “vile” breach of patient confidentiality.

Download the Washington Post story here.

tony plohetski

Tony Plohetski

Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman was named Runner-Up in the Series Category for a multimedia series exposing the activities of a Texas sheriff’s office which used a reality TV show as a platform for violent and aggressive tactics. Plohetski examined three years of use-of-force reports in the sheriff’s office of Williamson County, north of Austin, and found that the number had doubled since Sheriff Robert Chody began participating in a show called “Live PD.” Focusing on the death of a 40-year-old Black man, Javier Ambler II, at the hands of police, Plohetski unearthed footage showing that Ambler’s appeals for help had been ignored by deputies who continued to tase him as the cameras rolled.

In the process, Plohetski “exposed a policing culture that glorified violence—often for the sake of a television show—that had been meted out on dozens of people, a disproportionate number of them Black,” said John Bridges, executive editor of the Statesman in a letter accompanying the prize submission. Publication of the story contributed to the sheriff’s loss in his bid for reelection and helped trigger a national debate about the role of police reality-TV shows. “Live PD” has since been cancelled.

Download the Austin Statesman story here.

The awards will be presented at an online event March 5, 2021, held in conjunction with the 16th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America organized by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The public is invited to attend.

Editor’s Note: Information on how to register for the Symposium and for the prize ceremony will be available shortly. Please contact Stephen Handelman, director of the CMCJ, at  

Jurors for the 2021 awards 

 Alexa Capeloto, Associate Professor, John Jay College; Joe Domanick, Associate Director, Center on Media, Crime and Justice; Ted Gest, President, Criminal Justice Journalists; Ann Charlotte Givens of The Trace; Katti Gray, contributing editor, The Crime Report; Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, winner of the 2019 John Jay Journalism Prize in the Series Category); Mark Obbie, criminal justice solutions specialist at Solutions Journalism Network and former executive editor of American Lawyer; and Topher Sanders, ProPublica. Wren Longno served as Administrator of this year’s awards.


An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.


The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation is a global leader in creating and disseminating knowledge on the nature, consequences, and reduction of violence in its many forms, including war, crime, and human aggression. For more information, visit

The awards were presented March 5,  2020 at a Webinar held in conjunction with the annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America. Author Jill Leovy presided.

Justice Media Trailblazer

Because of COVID, a Justice Media Trailblazer dinner was not held in 2021.

The Trailblazer awards have been presented annually since 2013. For a list of previous winners, please see here.  Justice Trailblazer Awards


2021 Winners:  Mississippi Today and ProPublica/The Marshall Project

2020 Winners:   CNN  and Anchorage Daily News

2019 Winners:   Type Investigations and Pro Publica

2018 Winners:    Miami Herald  and Chicago Reader

View photos of the 2018 Trailblazer and Prize dinner here

2017 Winners    ProPublica and Mother Jones

2016 Winners   The Marshall Project and the Belleville News-Democrat

2015 Winners   The New Yorker and the Post and Courier (Charleston)

2014 Winners  The (Sarasota) Herald Tribune and the South Florida Sun Sentinel

2013 Winners   The Times-Picayune and Mother Jones

2012 Winners  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Mother Jones

2011 Winners   New York Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer

2010 Winners  The Belleville News Democrat and the Austin Chronicle

2009 Winners  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Times Herald-Record

2008 Winners      The Denver Post and The Wall Street Journal

2007 Winners        The San Jose Mercury and The Sacramento Bee

2006 Winners      The Rocky Mountain News and the Boston Phoenix


Justice Media Trailblazer

The 2020 prize dinner honored Dallas Morning News reporter Alfredo Corchado as the “Justice Media Trailblazer,” in recognition of his courageous career-long reporting on Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S., and more recently his trailblazing coverage of how the immigration crisis has impacted people living in the border region of southwestern U.S.

Since 2013, The Crime Report  in collaboration with the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College has honored individuals from the media and related fields who have expanded public awareness about the challenges and complexities of criminal justice.

The 2019 Trailblazers were Sarah Koenig and Brittany Packnett.

The 2018 Trailblazer was Bill Moyers.

Past winners have included  David Simon, creator of “The Wire” (2013); Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black (2014);  Maria Hinojosa, PBS host and founder of Futuro Media (2015); and Jelani Cobb (2016), New Yorker writer and director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut;  Van Jones. of CNN (2017).