The Michael Kelly Award

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Shane Bauer

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Determined to chronicle the everyday realities inside a private prison, Shane Bauer spent four months as a $9-an-hour corrections officer at a medium security prison in Louisiana after applying for the job using his own name and work history. His resulting article depicted a facility barely able to function under the cost-cutting pressures from the nation’s second largest prison company. Bauer’s article showed readers how insufficient staffing increased danger for guards and prisoners alike and how he struggled to maintain his humanity in a setting where physical and emotional assault was all too commonplace. Bauer’s article had immediate impact: after its publication, the Department of Justice announced it would end its use of private prisons.




Shane Bauer is a senior reporter at Mother Jones magazine. Earlier in his career, he reported from abroad from locations such as Iraq, Sudan, Chad, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. After taking a job in 2015 as a prison guard to investigate corporate-run prisons, Bauer went undercover in 2016 to examine America’s resurgent right-wing paramilitary movement.  His articles have appeared in The Nation, Salon, the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. His awards include a National Magazine Award for reporting, a Goldsmith Prize for investigative reporting, and two John Jay Awards for criminal justice reporting. From 2009-2011, Bauer was held hostage in Iran with his now-wife Sarah Shourd and friend Josh Fattal. Together they co-authored A Sliver of Light. He is currently writing a book about for-profit prisons.

Article by Shane Bauer

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