Trending Now: Prison in America

the corridor-documentary-1

The Corridor is a documentary in progress about a charter high school inside a San Francisco jail. A crowdfunding campaign to finance the film has two days to go and appears on track to reach its $34,000 goal.

If successful, The Corridor will join several other successful crowdfunding campaigns initiated in recent months geared toward telling the stories of prisoners, the criminal justice system and mass incarceration in the United States.

Here’s are four examples:

Staff reporter goes freelance to dig into the criminal justice beat

Kelly Davis worked for San Diego City Beat for more than a decade but left a few weeks ago to turn her full attention to the criminal justice system beat. After she decided to, as she said, “cut the cord,” she launched a crowdfunding campaign and raised more than $5,000 to stay on the beat. Davis has spent part of the last couple years reporting on the rate of inmate deaths while in jail in San Diego, which is higher than any jail system in a major city in California.

Los Angeles to Uganda

Two weeks ago, Tariq Ross Jr. successfully raised $2,300 to cover his airfare from Los Angeles to Uganda. Once there, he will conduct the kind of training courses he teaches in Los Angeles aimed at a reduction in prisoner recidivism rates. He also plans to shoot a documentary. Funders were treated to a private blog by the photographer that document his progress and experiences.

NBC’s year-long look at mass incarceration

“The Legacy of Mass Incarceration” project is a year-long look at prisons and policies by reporting duo Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville. Thus far, 24 stories have been published, made possible by 292 backers who have given near $40,000. The project also churned out the Everyday Incarceration Instagram account, a collection of amazing storytelling photos by several photographers. 

Reapply and Seville work for the Investigative Unit at NBC News.

“While traditional media outlets are now increasingly covering the criminal justice system, it remains difficult for them to fund in-depth coverage, due to budget constraints and an ingrained fear that readers don’t want these types of stories,” their campaign page reads.

Unlike the other campaigns mentioned in this article, “The Legacy of Mass Incarceration” is an ongoing campaign that invites people to give one time or continuously.

Prison culture

The Cutting Four-piece is a book by California-based writer Scott Anderson, which attempts to tell the story of prison culture, following years of embedding with law enforcement and interviews with inmates, convicts and others. Last month the project successfully raised more than $3,600. The book was spawned out of another crowdfunded project that attempted to tell the story of meth in America and its impact on crime rates and communities in the American Midwest.

Beyond media, in Finland a campaign recently succeeded to sell handmade notebooks by prisoners and in Finland another campaign is active now to get clothing made by prisoners.

And in South Africa and parts of the United States, Liberation Prison Yoga and Prison Freedom projects raised more than $50,000 to bring yoga to prisons.

Want to know more? Watch this video (also published today) by AJ+  and criminal justice news startup The Marshall Project for a quick primer on the largest prison system in the world.

Why does the U.S. jail so many people?

Posted by AJ+ on Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.


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