April 27, 2014

SPJ’s Comments on Winner of 2013 Carter Bradley First Amendment Award

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In awarding Oklahoma Watch its Carter Bradley First Amendment Award for a story by reporter Clifton Adcock, the Oklahoma chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists issued these comments:

“Non-profit journalism organization Oklahoma Watch was awarded the Carter Bradley First Amendment Award. Few other news stories in 2013 got the attention of people at the highest levels of state government than Clifton Adcock’s project with editor David Fritze on the role of the governor’s staff in the near-demise of justice reform.

“A few years ago, the state took steps to cut back on incarceration by enacting a Justice
Reinvestment Initiative, or JRI. However, in March 2013, the two leaders of the program, the House Speaker and a district attorney, resigned from the JRI board in disgust, accusing Gov. Fallin’s office of reneging on its commitment to support criminal justice reform.

“Oklahoma Watch’s Clifton Adcock and other media went after public records, mainly seeking emails sent to and from the governor’s offi ce about the justice initiative. The governor released more than 8,000 documents.

“Along with the emails, Adcock compiled records of campaign donations from private-prison companies to the governor and legislators, carefully recording when the donations were listed as tendered and when they were officially accepted; he also reviewed visitor logs from the governor’s office. He then constructed a timeline of all of the events. The overall picture that emerged was blistering.

“In his reports, Adcock showed the governor’s staff and key lawmakers had worked to grab control of justice reform even as they were meeting with private prison officials about the initiative and during a period when those firms made substantial donations to the governor and legislators.

“Adcock’s effort provided a public service that well deserve recognition.”