Skip to Content

(Un)Covering the Criminal Legal System

The criminal legal system is as sprawling and confusing as it is opaque. Understanding the various parts that make up the larger machine is a daunting task, even for people who have graduated from law school, passed the bar, and worked within the system for years on end. 

Journalism should serve as a critically important conduit between the powerful governmental entities who run these systems of punishment (not to mention the millions of people trapped within them) and the general public who seek to understand it. Unfortunately, media coverage of these systems and the people they ensnare – from arrest to trial to incarceration to release – is frequently inaccurate and slanted toward the one-sided narratives coming from police, prosecutors, and prison and jail administrators. This is perhaps unsurprising given the enormity of the task facing journalists, who are expected to somehow come to a deep and nuanced understanding of an incredibly complicated (and purposefully opaque) system while receiving little subject matter training and relying, mostly, on the government’s narrative. 

Southern Center seeks to support journalists doing the critically important work of covering these systems. We want to give newsrooms the tools to make their coverage as accurate and educational as possible. To do this, we believe journalists should learn from the experts: attorneys who have been doing the work for years, and, crucially, people who have first-hand knowledge of these systems. Over the next few months, we will be offering courses to interested members of the media. Each course will be co-taught by attorneys and directly-impacted experts. The subject matter will range from the importance of language and narrative framing to a deep-dive into the Prison Litigation Reform Act to debunking myths about pretrial detention, and more. 

The first session, (Un)Covering the Criminal Legal System, will be co-taught by Page Dukes, Communications Associate at the Southern Center for Human Rights, and Bruce Reilly, JD, Deputy Director of Voices of the Experienced. The class will give journalists the tools they need to move towards person-first language and balanced narrative framing. 

(Un)Covering the Criminal Legal System will be held on Zoom from 9:30 to 11:00 AM on Wednesday, October 19th. You can register here, or by scanning the QR code below. All are welcome.