2019 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom finalist

The Marshall Project

About the Project

The Marshall Project is a pioneering nonprofit news organization focused on covering the U.S. criminal justice system. We publish deeply reported investigative projects, explanatory and contextual pieces, narratives and profiles that put a human face on criminal justice, along with guest commentary and voices from inside the system.

Most importantly, our investigations have made meaningful impact.

Over the past year we went inside a New Orleans high school that operates inside of a jail, where incarcerated students face years behind bars but still need to learn math. Our story integrated audio, photography and text to show the challenges faced by these young men. And as a result of our reporting, our readers used social media to crowdfunded bail for one of the story’s central characters, who’s now out of jail.

In Banished, we created an immersive experience that takes the reader onto the streets of Miami-Dade County, Florida, where homeless sex offenders pack up camp and roam the city. At night they search for a campsite while police track and often evict them. Deftly integrating text and video, Banished reveals the day-to-day reality of people considered irredeemable and undeserving of second chances. Three short documentary episodes—which include a ride-along with the police, a look inside the tents of offenders and interviews with policymakers—are woven through the deeply reported narrative using scroll and fade techniques with immersive photo experiences. An interactive map allows viewers to explore the geographical restrictions at a state and local level, and the reader’s progress is marked by a rising and setting sun in the top right corner, allowing them to both sense how far along they are in the story and where they are in the cycle of the offenders’ day. By blending film vignettes, interactive data visualization and haunting photographs, the innovative design pulls the viewer into these men’s lives and shows their desperation and futility of circumstance. The unsettling conclusion is that while it’s easy to see why society might want to exile these men, it’s hard to see how widespread homelessness makes good public policy.

And while many Americans were shocked by the crisis of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, we revealed that the criminal justice system is harboring a little-known family crisis of its own: incarcerated parents have their children permanently taken from them at higher rates than those who’ve abused their kids. That was a shocking conclusion of our multi-year investigation which included original data visualizations, film, and photography, and profiled several families struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of forced separation. Intended to protect children, the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act stipulates that most kids who have been in foster care for more than 15 months must be adopted, resulting in thousands of incarcerated parents permanently losing custody. In Indiana, a group of incarcerated women used our article to push for legislation that would allow incarcerated parents to keep their children—that bill was signed into law in May this year.