This year's Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards have been announced and NPR is one of 13 winners being honored for excellence in broadcast journalism.
NPR receives the esteemed honor for a three-part investigative series revealing deep and costly flaws in the U.S. justice system's bail bond process 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. In the official announcement the Awards Jury praised the series, calling it an "original piece of expository journalism," and saying "Sullivan's writing crackles with insight and storytelling based on hard facts."
Sullivan spent months researching the perpetual and expensive overcrowding problem in U.S. prisons for the series, discovering that the bail 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 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
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.
Sullivan and Drummond will pick up the award at a ceremony on January 20 at Columbia University in New York.
Also among this year's recipients are NPR's public broadcasting brethren PBS, and local stations KCET Los Angeles, WGBH Boston and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Information about all of the winners announced this year is available at: www.dupont.org Congratulations to them all.