Miami-Dade County

Miami Herald wins awards for prisoner-abuse stories, sports coverage

Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald
Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald

Miami Herald reporters have been honored for a series of stories about abuse in Florida’s prison system and for sports coverage of the baseball steroid scandal and David Beckham’s campaign to bring a soccer stadium to South Florida.

Miami Herald staff writer Julie K. Brown won a George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for her work that uncovered physical abuse of inmates by Florida prison guards. She shared the award with two New York Times reporters who focused on abuse in New York City jails.

Brown’s coverage included exposing the death of a prisoner in Dade Correctional Institution's mental-health unit. Darren Rainey was locked in a scalding-hot, closet-like shower until he collapsed and died. Brown, a member of the Herald’s investigative team, told Rainey's story after tracking down prisoners, consulting medical experts, and sifting through records. Brown also told the story of a prisoner gassed to death in his cell while pleading for medical treatment and documented other cases where inmates died under suspicious circumstances.

Her articles about inmate deaths, a doubling in the number of use-of-force incidents involving guards, and prison cover-ups have led to changes that include a new state corrections secretary, the firing of dozens of guards, internal investigations, and a reform plan for the compassionate treatment of inmates with mental illnesses. State lawmakers are now pushing a bill to establish independent oversight of Florida’s largest department.

Brown will be honored in April at a ceremony in New York City. The Polk Awards are given annually for investigative and enterprise reporting that focuses on areas including criminal justice, environment, foreign and national affairs, and business. They were established in 1949 by Long Island University to honor George Polk, a CBS journalist killed the year before during his war reporting,.

In The Associated Press Sports Editors contest, several Herald writers won Top 10 awards:

▪ Jay Weaver took two Top 10 writing awards (Breaking News and Explanatory) for stories on the steroid case involving New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

▪ Linda Robertson placed in the Top 10 in Explanatory for baseball and smuggling in Cuba.

▪ A team of reporters (Michelle Kaufman, Patricia Mazzei, Andres Viglucci, Nadege Green, Douglas Hanks, and Barry Jackson) won a Top 10 in Projects for coverage of David Beckham’s attempts to bring soccer and a stadium to South Florida.

The Herald also was named honorable mention in the large-circulation category (over 175,000) for Website and Special Sections (football previews).

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