Three staff members at the Belleville News-Democrat have been awarded one of the nation’s most prestigious journalism awards.
Reporters Beth Hundsdorfer and George Pawlaczyk and photographer Zia Nizami won the 2016 John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Reporting Award for their multi-part series “Violation of Trust.”
The series focused on the fact that, of 6,744 felony rape cases in Southern Illinois investigated between 2005 and 2013, 70 percent of them never made it to a courtroom, and only 10 percent of them resulted in the suspect being imprisoned.
The series “stood out as an impressive example of the power of dogged reporting and insightful writing to hold institutions accountable and precipitate change,” said Glenn Smith, a former award winner and member of the jury that chose this year’s winner.
The runner up was The Guardian US, part of the British-based The Guardian newspaper, which in 2014 shared a Pulitzer prize with the Washington Post for breaking the story about the Edward Snowden surveillance records. The Guardian’s John Jay entry was “The Counted,” which detailed fatal police shootings in the United States.
This marks the second time the BND has won the award that will be presented Feb. 26 during a ceremony at the college in New York City.
Hundsdorfer and Pawlaczyk also won in 2010 for their stories about the treatment of prisoners at the former Tamms supermax prison. The articles led to reforms at the prison, which human rights advocates compared to the federal prison where terrorist suspects were held at Guantanamo.