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Recruiting rural journalists for an all-expenses-paid, two-day workshop in NYC

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York is recruiting rural journalists for an all-expenses-paid, two-day workshop in NYC in July on the problems of rural jails, with follow-up to help them do stories. This is funded by the Ford Foundation, it will pay all expenses of the participants. It will be a selectively recruited workshop; they’re looking for journalists with potential to cover the subject in areas where they think the problem are greatest. The point man for recruitment is Myron Possley, who won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting at the Chicago Tribune. If you know of an area where rural jail conditions are a problem, and a reporter or editor who could tackle the issue with help from this workshop, please send an email to al.cross@uky.edu.

 

To give you a better idea of the subject matter, here’s the executive summary of the successful grant application:

The swelling jail population is now recognized as a critical challenge for reducing mass incarceration in the U.S. But often overlooked is the fact that smaller, mostly rural, counties account for a significant part of that increase. According to a June 2017 Vera study, counties with populations of less than 250,000 now hold 44% of the total number of jail inmates nationwide. That’s a nearly two-fold increase since 1970. Although most jails in rural or sparsely populated jurisdictions are very small, when multiplied across nearly 2,000 rural counties, the cumulative increase is “an integral component to understanding mass incarceration,” the Vera report concludes. But relatively little has been written or aired about the inner workings of rural criminal justice systems, and in particular the policy decisions taken at local and state levels that impact their growth.

That is largely because of the scarce support for such reporting available to media in smaller jurisdictions.  Many small- and mid-size outlets lack the resources available to their larger counterparts to provide reporters with the time and training to pursue in-depth investigations of criminal justice beyond the traditional “cops and courts” beat. But there is no lack of enterprising journalists in those areas willing and eager to seek out the tools and knowledge that can generate public service reporting.

The Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice proposes to fill this gap by selecting 25-30 journalists in rural and smaller jurisdictions where there has been a notable rise in jail populations, and bringing them together with practitioners, scholars and advocates for an intensive program of training and support. The journalists will participate in a year-long program aimed at helping them use data-driven research to investigate the issues driving jail growth in their communities, and to identify site-appropriate jail reduction policies and practices. The highlight of the project will be a two-day symposium at John Jay College that will incorporate the research findings produced by the Vera Institute study, a concurrent May 31 Prison Policy Initiative study exploring how state practices contribute to jail growth, and other relevant research. It will also use selected initiatives launched under the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge as examples of best practices. CMCJ staff will provide post-symposium mentoring and research support to help Reporting Fellows complete their projects, and their work will be given a national online platform by the CMCJ’s website, The Crime Report, as a bellwether to inspire similar reporting elsewhere.

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