Washington, D.C. (April 10, 2017)— Shane Bauer is the winner of Atlantic Media’s 2017 Michael Kelly Award for reporting for Mother Jones on life inside a medium-security private prison in Louisiana where he served as a correctional officer for four months. The award was announced at a ceremony in Washington last night.
Determined to chronicle the everyday realities inside a private prison, Bauer applied for a job as a $9-an-hour prison guard using his own name and work history. His resulting piece, “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard,” depicted a facility barely able to function under the cost-cutting pressures from the nation’s second largest prison company. As he struggled to maintain his humanity in a setting where physical and emotional assault was all too commonplace, Bauer’s reporting revealed how insufficient staffing increased danger for guards and prisoners alike.
“Shane Bauer provided a public service by giving readers an unvarnished look inside a corporate-run prison. Michael Kelly would have greatly admired his determination and courage in reporting this important story,” the judges said.
Given annually, the $25,000 Michael Kelly Award honors journalists whose work exemplifies the fearless pursuit and expression of truth, qualities that defined Michael Kelly’s own career. Kelly, who served as editor of two Atlantic Media publications, The Atlantic and National Journal, was the first journalist killed while covering the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003.