Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown wins Polk Award for prison abuse series

Long Island University George Polk Awards Logo

Miami Herald staff writer Julie Brown has won the 2014 George Polk Award for Justice Reporting for her series of articles on brutal treatment and deaths of inmates in Florida’s prison system.

Brown shared the award with two New York Times reporters, Michael Schwirtz and Michael Winerip, who also focused on abuse in New York City jails. In each of the reports, officers acted with impunity even as injuries resulted in deaths.

Brown’s reporting focused on a 50-year-old inmate who died while under supervision at the Dade Correctional Facility, after he was locked in a hot shower and scalded to death. In addition, Brown noted the doubling of use-of-force incidents with guards. Over the span of several articles, she outlined several inmate deaths and established the way police, prosecutors, and a medical examiner assisted prison authorities in covering up a number of cases statewide.

Because of the Herald series, the state instituted a number of penitentiary system reforms: the appointment of a new state corrections secretary, internal investigations leading to a wave of guard firings, and calls for better treatment of inmates suffering from mental illnesses. Criminal investigations are also underway. Florida lawmakers are considering a bill to develop an independent oversight over the state’s largest agency.

Brown and the other Polk Award recipients will be honored April 10 at a ceremony in New York. The annual Polk Awards recognizes investigative and enterprise reporting on a range of issues: criminal justice, business, the environment and foreign and national affairs. The award from Long Island University, one of the nation’s largest private universities, began in 1949 to honor George Polk, a CBS journalist killed the year before during war reporting.

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected]


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