The moment Jeffrey Epstein was found dead from a suicide in his federal jail cell, Associated Press reporters Mike Balsamo and Mike Sisak got to work. The two wanted to understand how the Federal Bureau of Prisons could have been so dysfunctional that its highest profile inmate in decades could have taken his own life. What followed was an investigation involving the federal Bureau of Prisons, the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency, that exposed systemic corruption, abuse of inmates and a culture that punished whistleblower employees while rewarding those involved in beatings of inmates and other serious misconduct with promotions, despite a record of dangerous behavior. In response to the AP’s investigation, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded Attorney General Merrick Garland fire then-director Michael Carvajal, leading to Carvajal’s resignation. The reporting also led to a series of hearings by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Juvenile Injustice, Tennessee
In 2016, police arrested four Black girls at an elementary school in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Through more than 50 records requests and hundreds of hours of audio and video, reporters from WPLN and ProPublica uncovered a deeply unjust juvenile justice system that illegally arrested and jailed children, and disproportionately detained Black children. They discovered that the four girls, one as young as 8, were arrested for a crime that does not exist, in an investigation led by an officer who had been disciplined 37 times, on charges approved by judicial commissioners without law degrees, in a system overseen by a judge who failed the bar exam four times, in a county whose policy for locking up kids violated Tennessee law but was missed by inspectors year after year. Members of Congress have called for a federal civil rights investigation, and some members of the Tennessee legislature have called for the judge’s ouster. After the story was published, the judge announced she would be retiring at the end of her term this summer.
Crisis in the Catholic Church
Investigative reports from the Boston Globe exposed the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
“The Failure of the Death Penalty in Illinois” and “State of Execution: The Death Penalty in Texas”
A Tribune investigative series on problems plaguing the capital punishment system in the state.
Trial & Error
A five-part Tribune investigation that found 381 people who had homicide verdicts overturned because of prosecutor misconduct since 1963.
Who Owns the Law? West Publishing and the Courts
In a series prepared over four months, the journalists exposed federal judges accepting gifts from a private corporation often amounting to expensive vacations. The articles raised questions about the propriety of federal judges and the ensuing hidden corruption in the justice system.
Journalists Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson were recognized for their series “Battalion 316” which told of atrocities committed by a secret Honduran Intelligence Unit that had been trained and equipped by the CIA.
Murder on Trial
Murder on Trial is a four-part series by Athelia Knight that examines three years of homicides in the District of Columbia. The articles provide insights into the low rates of conviction and the heavy caseload crushing the criminal justice system.