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A Letter from our Cleveland Editor-in-Chief

The Marshall Project: A Journalism Public Service, Now Serving Cleveland

Dear readers,

The Marshall Project bears the name of the iconic U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. For Marshall, equality was a simple matter: “Equal means getting the same thing at the same time and in the same place.”

The Marshall Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit journalism organization, stands for a fact-based focus on American criminal justice and — in the spirit of Justice Marshall — for equality, equity and more effective criminal justice.

Jim Crutchfield.

Jim Crutchfield.

This week we launched The Marshall Project – Cleveland, the first of our local reporting sites. The Marshall Project – Cleveland will work among and with the community to explain barriers to a fairer and more effective system and shine a light on an often hidden world.

Our new companion newsletter, “From the 216,” will give you more access to this local journalism from us and our partners. We hope you’ll sign up to receive news and updates.

The Marshall Project – Cleveland intends to work with, not against, other media across the spectrum in the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County community.

Actually, The Marshall Project has been working in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County for a while. Last year, it started investigating the area’s court system for Testify, a powerful series that revealed inequities. Testify used The Marshall Project’s signature data crunching research to show the courts have not been living by Thurgood Marshall’s standard.

I read Testify before joining the staff, and I particularly liked the explanation of how and why The Marshall Project did its reporting. In addition to talking with many people about their experiences, journalists examined thousands of records from the court docket to put together a database to be shared with the public:

There’s “evidence that justice is not always blind. Here’s how: Cuyahoga County allows anyone with access to the internet to look up a person’s case records. But there's no way to use those individual records to assess the records of individual judges, and the court has not released that data publicly.

“Judges play a key role in the way justice is dispensed. Bringing transparency to how they do their jobs is essential to understanding flaws in the larger system. It’s also urgent for voters, who have the task of electing them – or voting them off the bench.”

I believe you want that kind of journalism.


Jim Crutchfield

Jim Crutchfield Email is editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project’s Cleveland newsroom, establishing the organization’s first local news team and leading local engagement projects.