Covering Jails and Police Reform (September 2021)


September 22, 2021– October 20, 2021

Covering Jails and Police Reform (September 2021)

This free online webinar series will help journalists more confidently cover America’s criminal justice system, from learning about COVID-19 inside jails to proposed changes in local policing. Enroll now to watch the replays. 

For a live learning experience, enroll in the “Covering Jails and Police Reform (January 2022)” workshop.


  • Watch this webinar series replay on demand.
  • 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 policing, incarceration, criminal justice, addiction, justice policy and journalism.


Learning Outcomes

Throughout the series, you will learn how to:

  • Cover significant legislative and local changes in policing
  • Grapple with the ethics issues of how journalists cover the accused and convicted
  • Deeply report stories about your local jail and COVID-19
  • Generate more 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



  • Watch this webinar series replay on demand.
  • 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 policing, incarceration, criminal justice, addiction, justice policy and journalism.

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

This webinar series already happened. You can enroll now to watch the replays. Or, you can enroll in our upcoming workshop here by Dec. 10.

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 online webinar series, 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 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 online webinar series is the virtual version 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 online workshop will unfold over five, 90-minute sessions from Sept. 22 to Oct. 20. Each session begins at noon Eastern time.

Wednesday, Sept. 22: 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. 

Wednesday, Sept. 29: Jamiles Lartey will help you track efforts to reform the justice system. 

Wednesday, Oct. 6: Dr. Lipi Roy will teach you about addiction in jail and prison.

Wednesday, Oct. 13:  Lawrence Bartley 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. Dr. Sarah Lageson will also offer insight about the long term effect of publishing mugshots.

Tuesday, Oct. 19: Wanda Bertram will offer 20 story ideas and resources for journalists.

Who should enroll?

This online webinar series is designed for journalists working in any medium in any role (reporters, photojournalists, editors, assignment editors, producers, managers, writers, copy editors, designers). 


Tuition is free, thanks to The MacArthur Foundation. This five-week, five-session virtual workshop has a value of $450.


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

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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...
    Read More

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