by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
"Louisiana INCarcerated" wins June Sidney Award
Louisiana locks up more people than any other state, nearly twice the national average. If it were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world. One in 86 Louisianans is behind bars, and one in every 14 black men from New Orleans is serving time.
Cindy Chang, Jan Moller, Jonathan Tilove, and John Simerman of the New Orleans Times-Picayune set out to explain why their state locks up so many people. Their Sidney-Award-winning series, Louisiana INCarcerated, explores the powerful institutional forces that interact to keep incarceration levels sky high. Louisiana is the only state where local sheriffs build and run prisons for profit.
The state pays the sheriffs a per diem of $24.39 per prisoner, a fraction of what it spends to house prisoners in state facilities. The prisons provide jobs for the sheriffs' constituents and their revenues fund local law enforcement. Not surprisingly, the sheriffs lobby fiercely for longer sentences. Without a steady influx of prisoners, their prisons will lose money.
This series paints an unflinching portrait of a justice system corrupted by the pursuit of profit.
Louisiana INCarcerated may be a swan song for The Times-Picayune, which announced yesterday that it wll be laying off a third of its workforce. The paper will soon cut back to three print editions a week, making New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper.
"The prison series was only possible because the newspaper invested tremendous time and resources," special projects reporter Cindy Chang said, "Of course, we're concerned that with major staff cuts and an emphasis on constant blogging, this may be our last project."
[Photo credit: Editor B, Creative Commons.]