The Sidney Hillman Foundation, which "honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good," bestowed its monthly Sidney Award for June on Beth Schwartzapfel, author of The American Prospect magazine's longform investigation of prison labor, "The Great American Chain Gang," in our May/June issue.
"[E]xcluding prisoners from employment statistics skews our picture of unemployment," Schwartzapfel tells Lindsay Beyerstein of the Hillman Foundation, in an interview at the foundation's website. "If you include prisoners, and count them as unemployed, the already-dismal employment rate of young black men without a college education plummets fifteen percentage points, from 65 percent to 50 percent. I was—and still am—stunned by this information. But then I thought, wait a minute: Inmates aren't really jobless. It's just that no one is counting their jobs."
Schwartzapfel's exposé was assigned and edited by executive editor Bob Moser. "Beth is one of the finest criminal-justice reporters anywhere, and it's always a pleasure to work with her," Moser says. "But what she accomplished with this story is amazing: She's reignited a public conversation about the constitutionality, the morality, and the unrecognized economic costs of virtual slave labor in prisons."
The editors of The American Prospect are proud of Beth and her superb reporting, and grateful to the Sidney Hillman Foundation for granting her this honor.