Washington, DC (Feb. 22, 2017) – The Marshall Project and Neil Barsky as its chairman and founder will receive the Champion of Justice Journalism Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) on Friday, March 3, 2017, at the Association's midwinter seminar and meeting in New Orleans, LA. Neil Barsky will be present to accept the award.
Mr. Barsky is the chairman and founder of The Marshall Project, a non-profit journalism enterprise that covers the American system of criminal justice with the goal of sparking a national conversation about reform. He has enjoyed a varied career in the fields of journalism, finance, and film. He has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, working for the New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal. Later, he embarked on a career in finance, from which he retired in 2009. Mr. Barsky also recently taught economics at Oberlin College. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
NACDL President Barry J. Pollack said, "With direction from Neil Barsky, The Marshall Project has become an invaluable resource for all Americans to rely on for criminal justice reporting. Of critical relevance to NACDL is the organization's reporting on the public defense crisis taking place in Louisiana. Publicizing this important story has helped to foster a national conversation about the overburdened and underfunded public defense system. NACDL hopes this conversation will lead to reform in Louisiana and elsewhere. I am proud to select the Marshall Project and Neil Barsky as its chairman and founder to receive NACDL's Champion of Justice Journalism Award."
"Neil Barsky's recognition that there is keen interest in understanding the criminal justice system is visionary," said NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer. "The non-partisan way that The Marshall Project covers all angles of criminal justice provides the tools for stakeholders from across the ideological spectrum to tackle the problems that permeate the nation's criminal justice system."
While not possessing a background in criminal justice, Mr. Barsky became interested in the American justice system in part from reading books like The New Jim Crow. Personally struck at the system's flaws, he noted in an interview with Newsweek that "…criminal justice seemed like such a fertile area [for journalism]. I began to realize there's a story a day that's amazing and horrifying out there. What if we were able to aggregate everything that's going on in the country – all the outrages and all the heartbreak – and put them in one place?" The Marshall Project has done just that.
Under Mr. Barsky's leadership, The Marshall Project, named for the first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, has covered a wide array of topics related to criminal justice. Reporters have written on everything from violent prison conditions, juvenile sentencing, and the perilous transport of private prisoners, to policing models in Chicago, the politics of civil asset forfeiture, and "An Unbelievable Story of Rape," which was written by past Champion of Justice Journalism Award recipient Ken Armstrong, and for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. They also have regular columns on individual cases and personal stories from prisoners and those inside correction facilities.
Mr. Barsky envisions that, while currently a non-profit organization, The Marshall Project might someday not be wholly non-profit or corporate, but rather a blend of the two business models. As he told the New York Times on the announcement of the organization going live, "Folks like ProPublica…are 100 percent nonprofit, and then you have places like BuzzFeed or The New York Times that are 100 percent commercially supported….Why can't you have a hybrid?"
Past recipients of NACDL's Champion of Justice Journalism Award include Radley Balko, Ofra Bikel, Anthony Lewis, Molly Ivins, and Steve Kroft. The full list of past recipients is available here.
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Ezra Dunkle-Polier, NACDL Public Affairs & Communications Assistant, (202) 465-7656 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.