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(Boston) ― WBUR Group and Boston University today announced that NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan was selected as the 2007 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize winner for a series entitled “Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons” which aired on NPR’s All Things Considered in July 2006.
The Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize, sponsored by Boston University and NPR-member station WBUR-FM, highlights a new generation of public radio journalists and seeks to inspire them to stretch the boundaries of the medium. Over 20 journalists under 35 years old from around the world competed for the $5,000 prize.
Sullivan will be honored at tonight’s WBUR’s Sixth Annual Public Radio Gala at the State Room in Boston. Her report, beginning with a rare look into the world of California’s Pelican Bay prison, focused on the disturbing and often secret practice of housing U.S. prisoners in isolation for more than 20 years. In the first series of its kind, “Solitary Confinement” revealed that more than 25,000 inmates are serving their sentences sequestered, an often intractable decision made by wardens not judges.
“Laura Sullivan’s series was uniformly very well written, presented with piercing clarity, and offered multiple, highly relevant perspectives,” said Lawrence Grossman, senior judge and the former president of NBC News and PBS. “Gaining access to these maximum-security prisons, to the prisoners, ex-prisoners and guards was quite a coup.”
The practice of solitary confinement has grown dramatically over the past two decades, but few prison systems were willing to discuss it or allow NPR access to their facilities. In most cases, Sullivan was the first person outside of the prison staff to talk to the inmates in as many as six years. She also tracked down several prominent prison officials and convinced them to share their concerns about the practice. The result was a story that offered possible solutions to the dilemma of incarcerating troubled inmates.
Sullivan has been on NPR’s National Desk since December of 2004. During her tenure, she’s covered crime and punishment issues for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, and other NPR programs. Before coming to NPR, Laura was the Washington correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, where she covered the Justice Department, the FBI and terrorism. In 1996, Laura and two other Northwestern University students completed a project that freed four men, including two death-row inmates, who had been wrongfully convicted of a murder 18 years earlier on the South Side of Chicago. The case led to a review of Illinois’ death row and a moratorium on capital punishment in the state. The project won a special citation from Investigative Reporters and Editors and numerous other awards. In 2006, Sullivan also won the prestigious Gracie Award for “Outstanding News Series” for the solitary confinement series.
The three most recent recipients of the Schorr prize were NPR foreign correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro for a two-part series entitled “Migrants’ Job Search Empties Mexican Community” which aired on NPR’s Morning Edition; Adam Davidson, who worked at “Marketplace” when he won the 2004 award for “Spoils of War,” which explored the considerable rise and dollar-value cost of corruption in Iraq since the start of the war; and NPR reporter Ari Shapiro for his submission “The Impact of Methamphetamine Use on the Gay Community.”
Schorr, currently a senior analyst for NPR, has had a distinguished, award-winning career in broadcast journalism, working with such pioneers as Edward R. Murrow at CBS and CNN’s Ted Turner. Schorr’s integrity and professionalism provided the vision for the journalism award bearing his name.