The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization focused on covering the criminal justice system. We publish deeply reported investigations, explanatory and contextual pieces, narratives and profiles that put a human face on criminal justice. During this turbulent year, the staff of The Marshall Project worked tirelessly to explain, illuminate and investigate.
One ground-breaking investigation was the first to focus on violence involving police dogs. Police dogs bite thousands of people every year in the United States. The injuries can be devastating—and sometimes deadly. Our series, “Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons,” is the result of a yearlong investigation by The Marshall Project, AL.com, IndyStar and the Invisible Institute.
In the past year, The Marshall Project made a conscious effort to expand our readership behind bars. We continued to grow News Inside, our print magazine that is now circulating in over 500 facilities across 38 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Canada. Our March issue published a survey that gauged incarcerated people’s opinions about taking the COVID-19 vaccine and answered questions from more than 130 people behind bars about the vaccine.
We also launched Inside Story, a new video series that is helping us engage with the incarcerated population who struggle with literacy. The show’s co-creators draw on their own experiences behind bars. The second episode of Inside Story examines the devastation COVID-19 has caused in prisons and jails across the United States, as well as efforts to vaccinate incarcerated people and corrections officers. Inside Story is already available on televisions and tablets in 280 correctional facilities in 35 states so far.
This year, The Marshall Project also deepened its coverage of the foster care system, which affects our nation’s most vulnerable children and often intersects with the criminal justice system. A months-long investigation with NPR — “Foster Care Agencies Take Millions of Dollars Owed to Kids. Most Children Have No Idea” — exposed how state agencies comb through the files of children in their care in order to apply for federal disability or survivor benefits on their behalf and pocket the money.
Eli Hager’s “They Agreed to Meet Their Mother’s Killer. Then Tragedy Struck Again,” was a beautifully written year-long exploration into whether “restorative justice” can work in homicide cases. The result is a complex narrative that asks: If our society’s ills and inequities continue to help create the broken people who commit such horrific crimes, do well-meaning solutions like restorative justice even have a chance?
Finally, journalists have long assumed that descriptors like “inmate,” “felon” and “offender” are clear and neutral terms. Activists have long argued that these words are dehumanizing. “The Language Project” is a collection of personal essays, interviews and a style guidance to promote language that is clear, effective and free of euphemism. “The Language Project” advocates for an incontrovertible fact—that people in prison or jail are people. Journalism is a discipline of clarity. If we fall back on labels, we are not doing our best work.