NPR contacted me recently to let me know Sullivan’s series won an Excellence in Broadcast Journalism Award.
NPR News is being honored with a 2010 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton Award for excellence in broadcast journalism for a three-part investigative series revealing deep and costly flaws in the U.S. justice system’s bail bond process, it was announced today. Reported by NPR Correspondent Laura Sullivan and edited by Senior National Editor Steven Drummond, “Bonding for Profit” exposed deep inequities in the treatment of rich and poor defendants, how the bail industry is vested in maintaining those inequities and the surprising cost to taxpayers. The series aired on the NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition, and is available online at npr.org: www.npr.org/series/122954677/behind-the-bail-bond-system
After months-long research into the perpetual and expensive overcrowding problem in U.S. prisons, Sullivan discovered that the bond system may be a major factor in keeping jails stuffed. “Bonding for Profit” focused on the dilemma of more than a half million petty, nonviolent offenders stuck in jail for months due to the simple reason of not being able to make bail – which is sometimes as little as $50 – at a $9 billion a year cost to taxpayers. In three reports, Sullivan revealed how stark options often force inmates to take prosecutor deals in exchange for early release, and how the bondsman lobby fights pretrial release programs proven to save millions of dollars.
The “Bonding For Profit” series produced emotional feedback from listeners, and has been cited by The Justice Department, the American Bar Association and lawmakers in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida in initiatives to examine current bail practices. The Awards Jury also praised Sullivan’s writing, saying it “crackles with insight and storytelling based on hard facts.”
The duPont-Columbia Awards will be presented at a ceremony on January 20 at Columbia University in New York. Accepting the awards on behalf of the organization are Laura Sullivan and Steve Drummond. Information about all of the winners announced this year is available at: www.dupont.org
The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards honoring overall excellence in broadcast journalism were established in 1942 by Jessie Ball duPont in memory of her late husband. Administered since 1968 by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, the awards are considered the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, which the Journalism School also administers.