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New Approaches Emmy Award
We are Witnesses

The American criminal justice system consists of 2.2 million people behind bars, plus tens of millions of family members, corrections and police officers, parolees, victims of crime, judges, prosecutors and defenders. In We Are Witnesses, we hear their stories.

Entry Category: New Approaches: Documentaries
Title of Webcast/Broadcast We Are Witnesses
Running Time: 01:20:10
Production Company: The Marshall Project
Date content was originally made available for viewing: 10/26/2017
Original URL:

There are currently 2.2 million people in our prisons and jails, and with each one comes the stories of those who have been affected: victims of crime, family members, corrections and police officers, parolees, judges, prosecutors, and defenders. "We Are Witnesses" is an ambitious video feature that seeks to portray the U.S. criminal justice ecosystem in a radical new way.

Looking directly into the camera, 20 people tell their stories. A guard at Rikers Island describes his terror while walking the halls of that notorious jail complex. A judge speaks of the torrent of cases he must rule on each day. A juvenile recalls of his profound unease at “getting comfortable” in prison. A crime victim reflects compassionately about his attackers. An incarcerated mom recalls the anguish of saying goodbye to her daughter. Taken together they form a 360-degree portrait of crime and punishment in America today.

Created by The Marshall Project’s founder Neil Barsky and directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Jenny Carchman, "We Are Witnesses" launched on October 26, 2017 with a stand-alone Marshall Project site ( that allowed for a striking presentation of each witness. The landing page incorporates video and text to introduce the project. The user can then click through on “play” to watch the films successively through a carefully curated playlist, or select “See All Witnesses” to watch the films discreetly. The films play with a “full bleed” display on both desktop and mobile, amplifying the visual impact of each character’s intimate confession.

“We Are Witnesses,” which was also published with the New Yorker, was an instant success. Millions interacted with the content through strategic partnerships and social media: the combined social media reach of "We Are Witnesses" exceeded 10 million followers on Twitter and over 4 million on Facebook.

The project also received a chorus of praise from our peers and viewers around the country. Journalist Emma Green called the series “incredibly affecting, and important,” and Washington Post managing editor Cameron Barr said "We Are Witnesses" was a “moving, mesmerizing video portraiture… you can’t stop watching.” We heard from people who had never interacted with the criminal justice system. One viewer wrote of the films, “They are breathtaking – beautiful and horrifying and human.”

To date, "We Are Witnesses" has won Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism's 2018 Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma. One judge called it "the most powerful piece of journalism (he had) ever seen." The series was also a finalist for the prestigious National Magazine Award, a Webby finalist, and received a Certificate of Excellence from the Society of News Design.

We are proud to nominate "We Are Witnesses" for a News and Documentary Emmy in the Outstanding New Approaches category. We believe that by bringing out the humanity of the vast array of characters in the system through an accessible and beautifully presented interactive feature, "We Are Witnesses" helps to reframe the debate and create a sense of empathy for all involved in our criminal justice system.