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Reporting On No-Knock Warrants, Child Abuse Wins Journalism Prizes

The John Jay College for Criminal Justice announced its annual awards for best print and online reporting by news organizations on criminal justice subjects. The prizes were announced at a symposium sponsored by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. The winner for a series was “Broken Doors,” a podcast created by the Washington Post. With a typical search warrant, police are supposed to knock and announce themselves. With no-knock warrants, police can force their way into people’s homes without warning. “Broken Doors” is a six-part investigative podcast about how no-knock warrants are used in the U.S. justice system and the terrible things that can happen when they go wrong. Hosts of the podcast were investigative reporters Jenn Abelson and Nicole Dungca. The prize winner for a single story was Mother Jones magazine for "The Mother Trap." Reporter Samantha Michaels told the story of Kerry King, a mother in Oklahoma serving a long prison sentence. The story spotlights the paradox of a mother serving more time than the abuser of her children. In 2015, King's boyfriend was charged with abusing King's daughter. He pled guilty in return for a 12-year sentence. King was charged with failing to protect her daughter from the boyfriend. She was convicted and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The runner up for a series was The Intercept, for "Climate and Punishment." Reporter Alleen Brown investigated the climate risks at 6,500 U.S. detention facilities. In the installment about Texas, “Boiling Behind Bars,” she describes how dozens of facilities are already subject to dangerously high temperatures that will only get higher with climate change. In other installments. she writes about the actual and potential impacts of flooding and toxic air pollution as well as the risks posed by wildfires. The runner up for a single story was "Prison Gerrymandering: How Inmates are Helping the Texas GOP Maintain its Power.” Reporters Lauren McGaughy and Ari Sen document where the nearly 250,000 people incarcerated in Texas in 2020 were considered to live by lawmakers redrawing the state’s voting maps. McGaughy and Sen report that inmates were counted in the towns where they were incarcerated, rather than where they come from. This practice of “prison gerrymandering” takes advantage of Texas’s massive incarcerated population to give greater representation to rural, conservative areas and to reduce the representation of the communities from which incarcerated people come.


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