AP reporters Claudia Lauer and Mike Catalini examined serious flaws in state crime victims’ compensation programs that exposed deep racial disparities across states. Philadelphia-based criminal justice reporter Lauer interviewed gun violence victims who said they had received a form letter denying them access to state funds designed to provide financial assistance for the victims of crimes.
Lauer and New Jersey state government reporter Catalini then sought to find out from the Pennsylvania program — and then programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia — who was being denied aid, and why, leading to a monthslong investigation that uncovered startling racial disparities. Lauer and Catalini filed dozens of public records requests, compiled hundreds of rows of data and worked to standardize it across states. They put together the most comprehensive dataset ever compiled on the topic. Lauer and Catalini collaborated with data editor Justin Myers and worked with data visualization developer Koko Nakajima who created compelling graphics to exemplify the disparities the reporting duo uncovered.
The story resonated with victims, advocates and even with state officials in states where the AP highlighted significant disparities. The story was also cited widely by advocates and news organizations, especially those focused on criminal justice.