CNN’s Van Jones Hailed as 2017 Justice Trailblazer

CNN’s Van Jones Hailed as 2017 Justice Trailblazer

CNN’s Van Jones Hailed as 2017 Justice Trailblazer

Van Jones, the CNN commentator who was a familiar on-air presence during last year’s presidential campaign and election, was honored Feb. 16 as the 2017 Justice Trailblazer by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice.

The award was presented as part of the 12th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, which this year focused on “Justice in the Trump Era: The State of American Criminal Justice (2017 and Beyond).”

The center also presented the annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting awards, which this year went to Shane Bauer of Mother Jones magazine for his article “My Life as a Prison Guard,” and to Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Saunders of ProPublica for their series “Busted.”

President Jeremy Travis told guests at the awards dinner that, to date, the center and the symposium have helped more than 800 journalists hone their reporting skills. “Better informed journalists, combined with John Jay College’s expertise, equals better policy and a better informed public,” Travis said. The center’s director, Stephen Handelman, added: “The concept of the CMCJ was to bring academics and journalists together, and it’s worked remarkably well.”

Don Lemon, anchor of the show “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” presented the Trailblazer award to his network colleague, noting: “He’s everything we want a contributor and a commentator to be. He is the messy truth.”

Jones, the co-founder of the advocacy organization Dream Corps, pulled no punches in his acceptance remarks, telling the journalists in the audience: “I know it might seem that nothing you do matters — it matters! This criminal justice thing is one of the most important things you can do. You have to keep beating the drum, because there are lives on the line.”

“This is not a left vs. right thing anymore,” Jones observed. “It’s a right vs. wrong thing.”

Runner-up awards for criminal justice reporting were presented to Eli Hager and Alysia Santo of The Marshall Project for their article “Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport,” to Justin George of The Baltimore Sun for the series “Shoot to Kill,” and to Michael A. Fuoco of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the series “What Cost Freedom?”