Mother Jones and ProPublica Win 2017 John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards

Mother Jones and ProPublica Win 2017 John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards

Mother Jones and ProPublica Win 2017 John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards

New York, NY, January 18, 2017 – Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, today announced that Shane Bauer of Mother Jones, and the investigative reporting team of Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders of ProPublica are the winners of the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim 2017 Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.

“At this critical time in criminal justice, the work of journalists has never been more important,” said President Travis. “We are proud to honor these reporters for their hard work, dedication and commitment—and for the inspiring example they set for their colleagues.” 

The prizes, administered by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), recognize the previous year’s best print and online justice reporting in a U.S.-based media outlet between November 2015 and October 2016. 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.

The 2017 winners:

Image of Shane Bauer Shane Bauer of Mother Jones has won the 2017 John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (single-story category) for “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard,” an extended account of his tenure as a $9-an-hour guard at a Louisiana facility operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. “The world of corporate-run prisons (which house nine percent of the nation’s inmates) has been shrouded in secrecy,” wrote the magazine’s editors in their nominating letter. “The immediate and overwhelming response to [his] investigation made it clear that Bauer’s report had exposed the private prison industry in a way that hadn’t been done before.”  This is the second time Bauer has won the nation’s only criminal justice journalism award. He won the single-story category honor for his 2012 Mother Jones article, “No Way Out,” an investigation into the practice of classifying prison inmates as “gang associates” and sending them to solitary confinement.

Image of Ryan Gabrielson Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders of ProPublica won the 2017 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award (series category) for their multi-part series "Busted,” an investigation of the systematic misuse of roadside chemical field tests by police. “Tens of thousands of Americans (are) jailed each year based on $2 police drugs kits known to be unreliable,” wrote Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, in his nominating letter. The reporters spent months tracking down individual cases and analyzing the data—and turned up hard evidence of wrongful convictions. Among the responses to Gabrielson’s and Sanders’ reporting, The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office in Portland, Ore. overturned five Topher Sanders wrongful drug convictions it had failed to notice in which defendants pleaded guilty based on inaccurate field test results; and in December, the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, part of the Texas judiciary, called for research and reforms to address field tests’ flaws.

Runner-up in the single-story category was awarded to Eli Hager and Alysia Santo of The Marshall Project for “Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport.” Their seven-month investigation uncovered a “deadly world that operates with virtually no oversight,” wrote TMP editor Bill Keller.  The story was simultaneously published on the front page of The New York TimesIn the series category, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Baltimore Sun tied for the runner-up slot. The Post-Gazette’s Michael A. Fuoco was honored by the judges for his five-part account, “What Cost Freedom?”—an examination of the case of Lewis Jim Fogle, exonerated in 2015 after serving 34 years for a murder he did not commit. The series led to a “call to action” for compensation for the wrongfully convicted, including the strengthening of lobbying efforts by Innocence Projects in Pennsylvania and New York, said Assistant Managing Editor Virginia Linn in her nominating letter. The Baltimore Sun’s Justin George was honored for his year-long investigation, “Shoot to Kill,” of fatal shootings in major U.S. cities. "George revealed an impossibly knotted web of violence that will leave readers despairing, but well-informed," said juror Beth Schwartzapfel.

Jurors for the 2017 awards were:

Alexa Capeloto, Associate Professor, John Jay College; Joe Domanick, Associate Director, CMCJ; Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists; Katti Gray, contributing editor, The Crime Report; Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project (2016 winner); Monica Varsanyi, Associate Professor, John Jay College; and Alberto Vourvoulias, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Awards Dinner

The awards will be presented February 16, 2017 at a dinner in New York City, held in conjunction with the 12th annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America.   Please RSVP for the dinner, which will also honor CNN’s Van Jones as this year’s “Justice Trailblazer.”  Jones’ award will be presented by CNN’s Don Lemon and emcee Errol Louis of NY1.


The awards dinner is the cornerstone event of the 12th Annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City February 16-17, 2017.

The symposium, “Justice in the Trump Era: The State of American Criminal Justice (2017 and Beyond)” will explore the challenges for criminal justice under the new administration.  

Speakers include: Tracie Keesee, Deputy Commissioner, NYPD; Flozell Daniels Jr of the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Task Force; Cherise Fanno Burdeen of the Pretrial Justice Institute; Nick Turner of the Vera Institute of Justice; and David Kennedy of the National Network for Safe Communities. A one-time fee of $25 is required for attendance at the on-the-record symposium.  For the full list of speakers, and to register for the conference, please click here


Twenty-six U.S. journalists from print, online and broadcast outlets have also been awarded Reporting Fellowships to attend the conference, including five who have received special fellowships from the Quattrone Center on the Fair Administration of Justice for projects examining systemic issues in the justice system. These unique fellowships are aimed at encouraging and promoting top-quality journalism on criminal justice. The Fellows were selected from a wide pool of applicants based on editors’ recommendations, and on investigative reporting projects underway or in the planning stage. A full list of the journalism fellows is below.

The John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium is the only national gathering that brings together journalists, legislators, policymakers, scholars and practitioners for candid on-the-record discussions on emerging issues of U.S. criminal justice.

Overall support for the conference and fellowships comes from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

2017 John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Reporting Fellows

(in Alphabetical Order)

Chandra Bozelko,  Freelance
Beth Burger,   Columbus Dispatch
Leonard Colvin, New Journal and Guide
Lindsey Coulter, Emlen Media/Correctional News
Rosa Flores, CNN
Sandra Hausman, Virginia Public Radio
Katie Honan, DNAinfo
Lottie Joiner, Crisis Magazine
Kimbriell Kelly, Washington Post
Daryl Khan , Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
Hanna Kozlowska, Quartz
Sukey Lewis , KQED San Francisco
Andrew Mannix,  Minneapolis Star Tribune
Tricia Nadolny, Philadelphia Inquirer
Andrew Pantazi, Florida Times Union
Markeshia Ricks, New Haven Independent
Sarah Ryley, New York Daily News
Johnathan Silver, Texas Tribune
Gustavo Solis, Desert Sun (Palm Springs)
Jeff Truesdell, People Magazine
Spencer Woodman, The Verge

2017 John Jay/Quattrone Reporting Fellows

(in Alphabetical Order)

Anita Chabria, Sacramento Bee
Jessica Pishko, The Nation
Lisa Snowden-McCray, The City Paper (Baltimore)
Bryn Stole, The Advocate
Hella Winston, Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.

The Center on Media, Crime and Justice, established at John Jay College in 2006, is the nation's only practice- and research-oriented think tank devoted to encouraging and developing high-quality reporting on criminal justice. Publisher of The Crime Report, it promotes better-informed public debate on the complex 21st century challenges of law enforcement, public security and justice in a globalized urban society.

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation sponsors scholarly research on problems of violence.                      

The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School is a national research and policy hub created to catalyze long-term structural improvements to the US criminal justice system.