Times-Picayune Team Wins June Sidney for Portrait of Louisiana’s Profit-Driven Prison System

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By: Press Release | The Sidney Hillman Foundation

NEW YORK: The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that a team of Times-Picayune reporters has won the June Sidney award for Louisiana INCarcerated, an 8-part series that investigates how for-profit prisons, long sentences, and a broken pardon system have yielded the highest incarceration rate in the nation.   

One in 86 adult Louisianans is behind bars, a rate nearly twice the national average. If Louisiana were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world.     

The series, reported by Cindy Chang, Jan Moller, Jonathan Tilove, and John Simerman, explains how powerful institutional forces interact to keep incarceration rates high.     

Louisiana is the only state where elected local sheriffs run prisons for profit. Prisons help create local jobs and their revenues help fund law enforcement departments. In order to keep their prisons full, and the money coming in, sheriffs team up with prosecutors to lobby for ever-tougher sentencing laws.  

“This series paints an unflinching portrait of a justice system corrupted by the pursuit of profit,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein.    

The Times-Picayune recently announced that it will be laying off nearly one-third of its staff and cutting back to three print editions a week. This will make New Orleans the largest city in the U.S. without a daily newspaper.    

Cindy Chang is special projects writer for The Times-Picayune. She began her journalism career at the Pasadena Star-News and has written for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. She graduated from Yale University and the NYU School of Law.    

Jan Moller reported for the state capital bureau of The Times-Picayune from 2003 to 2011. He is currently the director of the Louisiana Budget Project.   

Jonathan Tilove is the Washington correspondent for The Times-Picayune. Before that, he spent nearly 20 years writing about race and immigration for Newhouse News Service. 

John Simerman is courts reporter for The Times-Picayune. He is a graduate of Pomona College and the journalism school at New York University. 

The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good. Judges are Rose Arce, Hendrik Hertzberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Harold Meyerson, Susan Meiselas, and Lindsay Beyerstein.

The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially conscious journalism, by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. Winners of the Sidney receive a certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel, a $500 honorarium and a bottle of union-made wine.

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