By Bill Keller, 11.15.2014
In March I left The New York Times after 30 years there as a reporter, editor and columnist to help launch something new: a non-profit newsroom devoted to coverage of the American criminal justice system.
In the ensuing months we have assembled a diverse team of journalists, set in motion a wide range of reporting projects, built a website to serve as a worthy stage for our journalism, and begun to forge partnerships with a range of established media organizations that will amplify our voice.
We are not here to promote any particular agenda or ideology. But we have a sense of mission. We want to move the discussion of our institutions of justice — law enforcement, courts, prisons, probation — to a more central place in our national dialogue. We believe, as the great jurist Thurgood Marshall did, that protection under the law is the most fundamental civil right in a free society. Yet, by the numbers, the United States is a global outlier, with a prison population matched by no nation except, possibly, North Korea, with a justice system that disproportionately afflicts communities of need and of color, with a corrections regime that rarely corrects.
We aim to accomplish our mission through probing, fair-minded journalism, combining investigative rigor, careful analysis, and lively storytelling. We will examine the failings of our criminal justice system — but also test promising reforms. While a number of news organizations are doing distinguished reporting on crime and punishment, the journalistic energy devoted to this kind of reporting, time consuming and expensive as it is, has been sapped by the financial traumas of the news industry. Our aim is both to restore some of that lost energy and to be a catalyst for coverage elsewhere. We will publish the fruits of our reporting here and expand our audience by collaborating with first-rate newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and other online news sites.
In addition to our original reporting, we will compile the most interesting news and commentary from around the world of criminal justice, distributing our findings in our daily email, and offer this site as a hub for debate and accord. We are nonpartisan and nonideological, which means you will find here the voices of progressives and conservatives, centrists and provocateurs. As it happens, criminal justice is one of the few areas of public policy where there is a significant patch of common ground between right and left.
We are also nonprofit, dependent on the generosity of foundations and individuals. Our website and email are free of charge, but we invite you to click the “donate” button if you find The Marshall Project to be of interest and value. And join the conversation on social media or through our Letters to the Editor feature.