Tag Archives: Polk Awards

Crime at the Polks

Here are the criminal-justice-journalism winners at one of the industry’s major awards, the Polk Awards, announced yesterday, quoting the descriptions from the press release:

Award for Justice Reporting

Julie K. Brown of The Miami Herald and two New York Times reporters, Michael Schwirtz and Michael Winerip, will share the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for uncovering appalling evidence of guards brutalizing inmates at correction and detention facilities. The officers acted with impunity even when the abuse led to profound injury and death.

Brown found that a 50-year-old inmate who died in custody at the Dade Correctional Facility had been locked in a hot shower and scalded to death. Her reporting further established that police, prosecutors, and a medical examiner had abetted prison authorities in covering up that case and others across Florida. Top officials were replaced, dozens of guards were fired, fresh approaches to incarcerating the mentally ill have been undertaken, and criminal investigations are underway as a result of the reporting.
“Behind bars, a brutal and unexplained death”
“At a violent Florida prison, a death foreshadowed”
“For allegedly brutal prison guard, day of reckoning arrives”

Schwirtz and Winerip exposed a pattern of abuse of inmates—some beaten while they were handcuffed—in New York City’s jail complex on Rikers Island, using records and interviews to compile 129 instances of serious injury at the hands of frontline officers and supervisors in a single year. They reported that officials cleansed an audit of its most damning instances of brutality and curtailed other probes at the behest of an influential union chief who shut down the entire court transportation system one morning so an inmate scheduled to testify against officers could not appear. These and other revelations have spurred resignations, dismissals, new investigations, and a Justice Department lawsuit seeking to place city jails under federal oversight.
“Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail”
“Report Found Distorted Data on Jail Fights at Rikers Island”
“At Rikers Island, Union Chief’s Clout is a Roadblock to Reform”

Award for Local Reporting

The George Polk Award for Local Reporting will go to Tim NovakChris Fusco, and Carol Marin of The Chicago Sun-Times for dogged investigative reports in the face of considerable resistance by police and prosecutors over a 10-year-old homicide case involving a nephew of Richard M. Daley, the former Chicago mayor and Cook County state attorney. Their reporting reopened the case and led to a guilty plea by the former mayor’s nephew. A special prosecutor affirmed Sun-Times’ accounts that the killer had been shielded from prosecution in what amounted to an elaborate conspiracy.
“The Killing of David Koschman”

Award for State Reporting

Four reporters at The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.—Doug PardueGlenn SmithJennifer Berry Hawes, and Natalie Caula Hauff—will receive the George Polk Award for State Reporting for “Till Death Do Us Part,” a five-part series on the domestic abuse deaths of 300 women in the past decade—one every 12 days. They uncovered a culture of violence in South Carolina, where male abusers face a maximum of 30 days in jail for brutalizing a woman but up to five years in prison for cruelty to a dog. The state has 65 county animal shelters but just 18 safe houses for battered women. The Post and Courier‘s reporting began after the Violence Police Center called South Carolina’s rate of male-on-female homicides the worst in the nation. Their work evoked a strong response from state political leaders vowing reforms. The Center for Investigative Reporting consulted on and provided funding for this project.
“Till Death Do Us Part”