With the federal Pell Grant program that helps incarcerated people get college degrees about to expand, writer Aaron Morrison, video journalist Noreen Nasir and photojournalist Jae C. Hong obtained exclusive access to a prison graduation ceremony at Folsom State Prison in California.
Thousands of U.S. prisoners get degrees behind bars, mostly paid for by the federal Pell Grant program. In July, the program will expand to give 30,000 more students in prison about $130 million in aid per year.
Morrison and Nasir, both from the Race and Ethnicity team and based in New York, witnessed more than 80 men marching in the first graduation ceremony held at Folsom in three years. Hong, based in Los Angeles, covered the celebration as well. The main character of the story was released after publication, so retired AP photographer Rich Pedroncelli covered his release while Morrison updated the text.
These journalists helped AP venture into the rare territory that is inside U.S. correctional facilities. Their sourcing and access continue to allow AP to examine prisoner conditions, highlight racial disparities and share stories from the people most impacted. The story has so far gotten 59,000 page views on AP digital platforms where it continues to get traffic, and Folsom State Prison officials said they are going to broadcast Nasir’s video on the prison TV network, so the incarcerated men can see it.
For thorough and thoughtful reporting with rare access, this team earns Best of the Week — Second Winner.