ProPublica and Mississippi Immediately/The Marshall Mission Win 2021 Crime Journalism Awards

A riveting year-long investigation of Mississippi’s “debtor prisons” and a sequence of tales documenting the New York Police Division’s failure to carry officers accountable for extreme use of drive are the winners of the nation’s most prestigious award for justice journalism.

Karol V. Mason, president of the John Jay Faculty of Legal Justice, and Dan Wilhelm, president of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, introduced Thursday that the 16th annual John Jay Faculty/Harry Frank Guggenheim awards for Excellence in Legal Justice Reporting will probably be introduced to the workers of ProPublica and to Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu of Mississippi Immediately, working in partnership with The Marshall Mission.

“This yr’s profitable tasks present us the facility of justice journalism. As an establishment that educates fierce advocates for justice, we’re proud to spotlight their work,” stated President Mason. “Every of those tasks shined a shiny gentle on injustice and inequity and sparked requires motion resulting in important coverage modifications.”

“For the sixteenth yr in a row, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Basis is happy to acknowledge essentially the most compelling journalistic examinations of crime, violence, and justice in america,” stated Basis President Daniel F. Wilhelm. “Such work is crucial to understanding how greatest to handle the challenges our society faces in these essential areas.”

“Yearly, the John Jay Faculty/Harry Frank Guggenheim awards remind us how crucial knowledgeable reporting on our justice system is to the well being of our democracy,” stated Steve Handelman, director of the Middle on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay Faculty. “We’re proud to honor this yr’s winners and highlight the integral function journalists play within the battle for civil rights.”

The prizes, administered by John Jay’s Middle on Media, Crime and Justice, writer of The Crime Report, acknowledge the earlier yr’s greatest print and on-line justice reporting in a U.S.-based media outlet between November 2019 and October 2020. Profitable entries in every of the 2 classes share a money award of $1,500 and a plaque. Runners-up (see under) obtain certificates of Honorable Point out.

The 2021 Winners

 Single Story

Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu, reporting for Mississippi Immediately and The Marshall Mission, share the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Legal Justice Reporting Award (Single-Story Class) for exposing Mississippi’s apply of forcing people convicted of low-level felony offenses to work off their fines and different courtroom money owed at low-wage jobs throughout the day whereas they’re confined in locked services at night time till the money owed are paid.

Anna Wolfe

Their story, “Think Debtors Prisons are a Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi,” revealed that Mississippi’s 4 so-called “restitution facilities” successfully function debtors’ prisons, with some people confined for so long as 5 years whereas they work at low-wage, harmful jobs corresponding to slaughtering chickens or gutting catfish, the story discovered. A lot of the cash they earn in reality goes to pay “room and board” on the facilities, driving a vicious cycle of incarceration and debt that “penalizes the poorest residents of the poorest state within the nation,” College of Mississippi professor Cliff Johnson was quoted as saying within the story.

Michelle Liu

Michelle Liu

Wolfe and Liu, who interviewed greater than 50 present and previously incarcerated individuals for the piece, labored intently with senior investigative editor Leslie Eaton at The Marshall Mission to develop and report the story. TMP’s Andrew Calderon assisted within the examination of a whole bunch of pages of courtroom paperwork and transcripts of hearings, in addition to analyzing a database of sentencing orders so readers might see how a lot individuals owed to show that they had been sentenced for cash, reasonably than time.

“Our first-of-its-kind knowledge evaluation and in-depth reporting instantly made waves,” Susan Chira, TMP Editor-in-Chief, stated in a letter accompanying the submission, noting that the reporters’ findings had been extensively publicized in native and nationwide media and led to the submitting of a number of payments within the state legislature to shut down the facilities.

The Mississippi Immediately investigation has been acknowledged elsewhere. In February the story received the Sidney Award, and in September, it was additionally honored with the On-line Information Affiliation’s Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award.


The reporting workers of ProPublica received the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Legal Justice Reporting Award (Collection Class) for “The NYPD Files,” an investigation that documented how seldom allegations about extreme use of drive by the New York Police Division (NYPD) resulted in critical self-discipline. The ProPublica staff—together with Eric Umansky, Joaquin Sapien, Topher Sanders, Mollie Simon, Moiz Syed, Derek Willis, Lena Groeger, Adriana GallardoJoshua Kaplan and Lucas Waldron—created an internet database primarily based on information held by town’s Civilian Criticism Overview Board, revealing for instance that in 2018, the newest yr when full knowledge had been out there, solely 73 of three,000 allegations of drive had been substantiated.

The publication of police disciplinary information, which had been largely unavailable to the general public, opened “an unprecedented window to one of the vital opaque disciplinary methods in American policing,” and demonstrated how “a veneer of civilian oversight belies the truth that America’s largest police drive largely disciplines itself,” ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg stated in a letter accompanying the submission.

The database rapidly turned a useful resource for investigations by different media and was seen practically 1,000,000 occasions by odd New Yorkers, Engelberg added. “The knowledge in it, which we made out there at no cost on our Knowledge Retailer, is our most-downloaded dataset of all time.”

Subsequent reporting within the sequence probed particular examples of questionable disciplinary proceedings in partnership with THE CITY, one other nonprofit information outlet. Amongst its findings: a number of high-ranking NYPD officers had been repeatedly promoted regardless of “lengthy information of significant civilian complaints.”

The 2021 Runners-Up

hannah dreier

Hannah Dreier

Runner-Up within the Single-Story Class was awarded to The Washington Put up, which revealed that the outcomes of remedy periods with undocumented migrant youngsters had been shared with U.S. immigration authorities for doable use in courtroom proceedings in opposition to them. The story by Put up reporter Hannah Dreier, entitled “Trust and Consequences,” was primarily based on a year-long investigation that included analyzing a whole bunch of pages of courtroom paperwork and immigration information. Dreier advised her story via 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 hazard, primarily based on info shared from supposedly confidential interviews with a authorities therapist. Publication triggered the introduction of payments in Congress that may ban such information-sharing, in addition to requires oversight hearings into what the American Psychological Affiliation referred to as a “vile” breach of affected person confidentiality.

tony plohetski

Tony Plohetski

Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman was named Runner-Up within the Collection Class for a multimedia series exposing the actions of a Texas sheriff’s workplace which used a actuality TV present as a platform for violent and aggressive techniques. Plohetski examined three years of use-of-force stories within the sheriff’s workplace of Williamson County, north of Austin, and located that the quantity had doubled since Sheriff Robert Chody started collaborating in a present referred to as “Dwell PD.” Specializing in the dying of a 40-year-old Black man, Javier Ambler II, by the hands of police, Plohetski unearthed footage exhibiting that Ambler’s appeals for assist had been ignored by deputies who continued to tase him because the cameras rolled.

Within the course of, Plohetski “uncovered a policing tradition that glorified violence—usually for the sake of a tv present—that had been meted out on dozens of individuals, a disproportionate variety of them Black,” stated John Bridges, govt 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 set off a nationwide debate concerning the function of police reality-TV exhibits. “Dwell PD” has since been cancelled.

The awards will probably be introduced at an internet occasion March 5, 2021, held together with the 16th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America organized by the Middle on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay Faculty of Legal Justice. The general public is invited to attend.

Editor’s Word: Data on the best way to register for the Symposium and for the prize ceremony will probably be out there shortly. Please contact Stephen Handelman, director of the CMCJ, at  

Jurors for the 2021 awards 

 Alexa Capeloto, Affiliate Professor, John Jay Faculty; Joe Domanick, Affiliate Director, Middle on Media, Crime and Justice; Ted Gest, President, Legal Justice Journalists; Ann Charlotte Givens of The Hint; Katti Grey, contributing editor, The Crime Report; Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Each day Information, winner of the 2019 John Jay Journalism Prize within the Collection Class); Mark Obbie, felony justice options specialist at Options Journalism Community and former govt editor of American Lawyer; and Topher Sanders, ProPublica. Wren Longno served as Administrator of this yr’s awards.


A world chief in educating for justice, John Jay Faculty of Legal Justice of the Metropolis College of New York is a Hispanic Serving Establishment and Minority Serving Establishment providing a wealthy liberal arts research curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate college students from greater than 135 nations. John Jay is house to school and analysis facilities on the forefront of advancing felony and social justice reform. In educating, scholarship and analysis, the Faculty engages the theme of justice and explores elementary human needs for equity, equality and the rule of regulation. For extra info, go to and comply with us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.


The Harry Frank Guggenheim Basis is a world chief in creating and disseminating data on the character, penalties, and discount of violence in its many types, together with conflict, crime, and human aggression. For extra info, go to