The Post and Courier's series on domestic violence “Till Death Do Us Part” has been named winner of a national journalism award for “Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.”
Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, cited the five-day series on Wednesday for proving that “powerful journalism can drive change and open to public view the darker corners of our justice system.”
The series, published in August, prompted lawmakers in both houses of South Carolina's Legislature to draft bills to upgrade the state's domestic violence laws and provide surer punishment for abusers.
The 2015 John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Awards honor the best work published by U.S.-based print and online journalists between November 2013 and October 2014.
The newspaper's five-day series by reporters Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff won in the series category.
The single story category was won by Jennifer Gonnerman of The New Yorker for “Before the Law,” a chilling account of Kalief Browder, a Bronx teenager who was accused of stealing a backpack and spent more than a thousand days awaiting trial at Rikers Island before he was released with no charges.
Awards judge Alexa Capeloto, a John Jay professor and former editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune, said The Post and Courier series “covered a topic that is pervasive, yet too often kept to the margins of public discourse.”
“Till Death Do Us Part,” called domestic abuse a silent epidemic in South Carolina that took the lives of more than 300 women in 10 years' time while state leaders did little to stem the violence. It's a state where domestic abusers face a maximum of 30 days behind bars for brutalizing a wife or girlfriend but up to five years in prison for cruelty to a dog.
The series revealed numerous failings, including limited police training, inadequate laws, a lack of punishment, insufficient education for judges, a dearth of victim support, and traditional beliefs about the sanctity of marriage that keep victims locked in the cycle of abuse.
The California-based Center for Investigative Reporting’s then-Editorial Director Mark Katches consulted on and helped edit the series, while Senior Editor for Data Journalism Jennifer LaFleur provided database training. CIR also provided funding for data research and print graphics.