Project description

The Marshall Project has a very small data team that covers all the data collection, analysis, design and visualization needs of our newsroom to support strong, in-depth investigative data reporting about the criminal justice system in America. This portfolio covers a range of this work, from a 9-month long investigative data analysis breaking down the dangerous misconception that immigrants increase crime, to the heartbreaking data behind the numbers of children placed into foster care who are lost to their parents forever because of incarceration. Our handful of data reporters pitch and carry out their own investigative data projects, collaborate with other reporters to crunch numbers from massive datasets to uncover important unknown information hidden in criminal justice data, and design and build beautiful, compelling data visualizations to convey the stories in this data.

What makes this project innovative?

Criminal justice data is famously opaque and hard to access. The Marshall Project works to free this hidden and crucially important information for the public to see, difficult and time-consuming work which other newsrooms often can’t devote the time and resources to carry out.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

In addition to audience engagement metrics, The Marshall Project measures success through changes in public conversation around the criminal justice system, and action from lawmakers and the public. For example, the foster care story included in this portfolio sparked conversation to change legislation controlling how easily an incarcerated parent can lose permanent rights to their child. The immigration and crime analysis was shared widely on social media and cited by dozens of other news outlets including Hasan Minhaj’s netflix talk show; over a year later, it remains a go-to fact check for Trump Administration misinformation surrounding immigrants.

Source and methodology

The Marshall Project employs a range of data research methods, including use of public data, FOIA requests, development of government, law enforcement and academic sources, and scraping. This investigative data reporting process can take weeks, months or even years, and involves diligent record-keeping and follow up to collect, understand and verify. After data is analyzed, the data team also follows a rigorous internal review within the team as well as a fact-checking process with outside sources to check for accuracy.

Technologies Used

The Marshall Project data team generally uses Excel, R and Python for data analysis; sketching and Adobe Illustrator for design; Javascript, HTML, CSS and D3.js for visualization.

Project members

The Marshall Project data team members who contributed to this portfolio are: Anna Flagg, Yolanda Martinez and Taylor Eldridge. Michael Corey from Reveal also contributed in one of our collaborative data analysis projects.

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