The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization covering the US criminal justice system. Since our launch in November 2014, we have interviewed President Obama and become the youngest new organization to win a Pulitzer. We have published more than 1000 stories and partnered with more than 100 media organizations, reaching an audience of millions.
We are motivated by the belief that for too many years the media sensationalized crime coverage while paying too little attention to the expansion of the criminal justice system and the rise of mass incarceration. 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, recidivism, and more. To achieve this our repertoire includes deep investigative projects, narratives and profiles that put a human face on criminal justice, explanatory and contextual pieces, along with guest commentary and voices from inside the system. We place a particular value on watchdog journalism that — because it takes patience and money — is withering at all but the best for-profit news organizations.
In the past year alone, our journalism has had demonstrable impact on the criminal justice system. Our A-1 Washington Post story on the widespread practice of charging parents for their kids’ incarceration led to Philadelphia ending the practise hours after publication; California followed suit a few months later. Our gripping profile of Michelle Jones, published on the front-page of the New York Times, detailed how Jones became an accomplished historian during her twenty years in an Indiana prison for the murder of her four-year-old son, and was recruited by top graduate schools around the country. But her admission to a PhD program at Harvard was ultimately overturned by college administrators. The story reached over 1 million people in three days, and inspired op-eds and conversations about the nature of forgiveness across the country. And our ambitious film project, “We Are Witnesses,” a series of 18 short films capturing the huge and tragic toll that the criminal justice system takes on all who come in contact with it, launched to great acclaim and is already being incorporated into advocacy campaigns and educational initiatives in universities, high schools and within the prison system.
Looking ahead, we will continue to focus attention on the failures of the criminal justice system and examine possible solutions, always with an eye to producing tough-minded, fair journalism.