2017 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

The Marshall Project

About the Project

The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization covering the US criminal justice system. We aim to redirect public attention to a broad array of issues that include policing strategies, sentencing practices, alternatives to incarceration, the treatment of juvenile offenders, and more. One way that we connect our work to as broad an audience as possible is through a powerful design language that aims to utilize digital compositions to make our work as clear and accessible as possible.

Examples from the past year include:

Crime in Context: We collected and analyzed 40 years of FBI data on the most serious violent crimes in 68 police jurisdictions, presenting our analysis in an interactive chart that shows how violent crime (murder, rape, robbery or aggravated assault) has changed over time. Our graphic shows that the answer to whether crime has risen or fallen is far more complex than the political rhetoric suggests.

@atticasghosts: From its earliest days, The Marshall Project has covered the troubled history of Attica, the notorious upstate New York prison. For the 45th anniversary of the uprising there—a seminal moment in America’s struggle with crime and justice—The Marshall Project sought a unique way to breathe life into the story of the riot and the bloody retaking of the prison and to engage an audience too young to know the tale. We created the @atticasghost Twitter account and retold the story of the uprising, minute-by-minute 45 years later. The updates, timed to coincide exactly with when the original events occurred, allowed our audience to experience the narrative as it unfurled in real-time. When the experience ended, 6 days later, we published the entire, socially driven story to our site.

The Marshall Project’s investigation into private extradition companies revealed a poorly regulated industry riddled with deaths, injuries, accidents and escapes. Alongside our in-depth report, we wanted to show readers the inside of a prisoner transport van. But our reporters identified one ex-employee who knew about several extradition vehicles that were kept at a maintenance shop. They flew to Nashville and convinced the owner to allow them inside the decommissioned vehicles, photographing with a 360-degree camera, which resulted in an immersive reader experience. We also provided fellow journalists with a reporter’s guide to investigate the industry in their counties, which has resulted in local news organizations taking on the story.

We exposed Southern California’s wealth-based system of criminal justice–known as “pay-to-stay”–which allows some defendants to buy a safer and more comfortable jail experience. The story included a custom-built, innovative sidebar giving readers a 360-degree view of a private jail cell and kitchen, and we explained in an accompanying story how we accessed and crunched all the data.

Finally, our feature pieces demonstrate how beautiful design and interactive graphics can add a new dimension to longform narrative journalism. The Accusation, which explored a case of false testimony and hazy childhood memories, included historic photos than dynamically blur in and out of focus, suggesting the uncertainty of memory as you scroll through the piece.