Covering Jails and Police Reform (January 2022)



Covering Jails and Police Reform (January 2022)

This free workshop will help journalists more confidently cover America’s criminal justice system, from learning about COVID-19 inside jails to proposed changes in local policing. 

January 20, 2022– January 21, 2022


  • This seminar took place in-person and online Jan. 20-21, 2022.
  • Become a better informed, more thoughtful reporter covering hot-button justice issues in your community.
  • Go beyond covering daily spot news to dig deeper and write enterprise stories.
  • Learn from experts on incarceration, criminal justice, addiction, justice policy and journalism.


Learning Outcomes

Throughout the workshop, you will learn how to:

  • Deeply report stories about your local jail
  • Explore how COVID-19 has affected incarceration trends
  • Generate solid story ideas based on new data and trends in local jails
  • Understand the effects of your reporting on formerly incarcerated people
  • Consider new and diverse sources for your reporting



  • This seminar took place in-person and online Jan. 20-21, 2022.
  • Become a better informed, more thoughtful reporter covering hot-button justice issues in your community.
  • Go beyond covering daily spot news to dig deeper and write enterprise stories.
  • Learn from experts on incarceration, criminal justice, addiction, justice policy and journalism.

Training five or more people?
Check out our custom training.

This seminar took place in-person and online Jan. 20-21, 2022. A replay is available. 

Local jails are the gateway to the U.S. justice system, but they are overloaded, overused and under-covered by resource-strapped journalists.

While local jails were intended to house people who were deemed to be a societal danger or flight risk before trial, they have become warehouses — often for people who have not been convicted of a crime and cannot afford to bail themselves out. In many cities, jails are increasingly filled with women, juveniles, immigrants and people who suffer from addictions and mental illness.

In this in-person and online hybrid workshop, you will learn how to cover local jails that continue to be COVID-19 hot spots. You will prepare for significant legislative and local changes in policing, spurred by both politics and protests. Formerly incarcerated people will give you insight into the effects of journalism on their life after lockup, and addictions experts will provide insight about the link between lower incarceration rates and addiction treatment.

Throughout the entire program, Poynter faculty will lead robust discussions around journalism ethics when it comes to how we cover the accused and convicted. The sessions will be practical, inspiring and non-political.

Here’s what some of our previous participants had to say about their experience:

This workshop gave insight on a side of our justice system that we cover, but rarely consider. It gave me a fresh perspective on what goes on behind bars, and how improving our jails can actually improve society.

Learning the data I believe was most important. With that knowledge, I can localize the national numbers and trends to my own coverage area.

I have written a lot of jail stories, but this workshop really demonstrated some other and better ways to hit on the bail/bond, jail population and other issues by using data and public records to identify the people it affects.

This workshop is part of the effort Poynter began four years ago to help journalists cover jails and incarceration in the United States. With our funder, MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, and our partners at the Vera Institute of Justice and The Marshall Project, Poynter has reached over 1,000 journalists in at least 45 states with practical and expert teaching on jails in the United States. We have taught in-person workshops from coast to coast and border to border including Dallas, New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Saint Petersburg, Baltimore, Columbus. 

If you need assistance, email us at

This in-person and online hybrid workshop will unfold over two days in January 2022. Data-driven presentations, first-person perspectives and big picture conversations will be balanced with opportunities to talk, connect and think deeply about jails and police. 

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022

All sessions are listed in Eastern time 

9-9:15 a.m. — Welcome and overview

9:15-10:45 a.m. — Elizabeth Swavola will explain trends in local jails, including: rural versus urban, why women are being jailed more often, who is most likely to be jailed and more. 

10:45-11:15 a.m. — In-person break and Q&A with Elizabeth Swavola for virtual participants 

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. — Jamiles Lartey will help you track congressional efforts and presidential promises to reform the justice system. 

12:45-2 p.m. — Lunch at Poynter and Q&A with Jamiles Lartey for virtual participants 

2-4 p.m. — Dr. Lipi Roy will teach you about addiction in jail and prison and introduce you to programs that treat incarcerated people for their addictions. 

4-4:15 p.m. — In-person break and Q&A with Dr. Lipi Roy for virtual participants 

4:15-4:30 p.m. —  Al Tompkins will talk with you about the big ideas from the day

Friday, Jan. 21, 2022

All sessions are listed in Eastern time 

9-10:15 a.m. — Lawrence Bartley, who has first-hand experience with living incarcerated, will discuss what you need to know about the realities of incarceration and the effects that journalists have on people in jails and the judicial process.

10:15-11:30 a.m. — Dr. Sarah Lageson will offer insight about the long-term effect of publishing mugshots.

11:30-11:45 a.m. — In-person break and Q&A with Lawrence Bartley and Dr. Sarah Lageson for virtual participants 

11:45 a.m. -12:15 p.m. — Small groups share story ideas 

12:15-1:15 p.m. — Lunch at Poynter / break for virtual participants 

1:15-2:30 p.m. — Wanda Bertram will offer a dozen (or more) story ideas and resources for journalists.

2:45-3 p.m. — Discuss the best story ideas from your conversations that you can work on when you get home.

3:15 p.m. — Farewells

Who should apply

This workshop is designed for journalists working in any medium in any role (reporters, photojournalists, editors, assignment editors, producers, managers, writers, copy editors, designers). The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 10.

If you wish to attend virtually: 

Please sign up via our application form and we will help you enroll into the course. We have plenty of room to accept all the journalists who apply for the virtual program. 

If you wish to attend the workshop in-person: 

We can offer 30 seats to in-person attendees. We will be choosing the in-person group on a rolling basis, meaning there is some advantage to applying as soon as possible. All in-person applicants will be required to complete a health screening form so we can ensure a safe environment for faculty and guests. The in-person experience includes complimentary hotel accommodations in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida’s scenic downtown, transportation from the hotel to Poynter’s waterfront campus, the opportunity to share the learning experience alongside your peers from across the country, plus free breakfasts and lunches. Any applicant who is not chosen to attend the workshop in person is welcome to join us virtually.

If you want to attend virtually and NOT attend at Poynter in St. Petersburg please note that on the application.


Tuition is free, thanks to The MacArthur Foundation. 

Poynter will select 30 out-of-town participants for whom we will provide free hotel accommodations. Out-of-town participants are responsible for their travel expenses other than the hotel. Otherwise, out-of-pocket expenses for in-person participants will be minimal: breakfast is free at the hotel and lunch is included at Poynter. We will consider hardship appeals to help with travel on a very limited basis. 


Lead Faculty

  • Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty, Broadcast and Online
    Al Tompkins
    Senior Faculty, Broadcast and Online
    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around...
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Guest Faculty

  • Lawrence Bartley
    Director, "News Inside" at The Marshall Project
    Lawrence Bartley is the director of “News Inside,” the print publication of The Marshall Project which is distributed in hundreds of prisons and jails throughout...
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  • Wanda Bertram
    Communications Strategist, Prison Policy Initiative
    Wanda Bertram is Prison Policy Initiative's Communications Strategist. Wanda is a graduate of the University of Washington, where her focus on national security sparked her...
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  • Dr. Sarah Lageson
    Associate Professor at Rutgers University-Newark School of Criminal Justice
    Sarah Lageson is sociologist who studies criminal legal systems, law, privacy, surveillance, and tech. Her research examines the growth of online crime data, mugshots, and...
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  • Jamiles Lartey
    Staff Writer, The Marshall Project
    Jamiles Lartey is a New Orleans-based staff writer for The Marshall Project. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Guardian covering issues of criminal...
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  • Dr. Lipi Roy
    Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine Physician
    Dr. Lipi Roy currently serves as the Medical Director of COVID Isolation and Quarantine Sites for Housing Works in New York City. As the former...
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  • Elizabeth Swavola
    Project Director, Jail Decarceration, Vera Institute
    Liz is a project director of Vera’s jail decarceration efforts. She provides technical assistance and training to local jurisdictions seeking to implement data-driven criminal justice...
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