Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins won the 2020 John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Award for Excellence in Criminal Justice Journalism. He was honored in the series category for “Lawless,” produced in partnership with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, which detailed a sexual assault crisis in rural Alaska and how it is compounded by a profound lack of public safety services.
Alaska has the highest sexual assault rate in the U.S., and the impact is felt disproportionately by Alaska Natives, many living in the country’s poorest and most remote villages. For the series, Hopkins traveled to some of these villages, including one where sex offenders outnumber police officers 7 to 1. With a lack of qualified personnel, some communities hired officers convicted of felonies, domestic violence and other offenses, while other far-flung villages had no local law enforcement of any kind. Hopkins’ comprehensive reporting showed how these conditions contribute to an ongoing but preventable epidemic of abuse and trauma.
ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein, Adriana Gallardo, Beena Raghavendran and Nadia Sussman, and the Anchorage Daily News’ David Hulen, Alex Demarban, Michelle Theriault Boots and Tess Williams also contributed to the series.
In the wake of the investigation, U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited Alaska to learn more about the problems Hopkins highlighted. Barr declared an emergency for public safety in rural Alaska and pledged more than $52 million in funds as part of a sweeping plan to better support law enforcement in Alaska Native villages, including three new federal prosecutors to focus on rural Alaska, the hiring of 20 more officers, upgrading public safety infrastructure for Alaska villages and expanding tribal victim services. The U.S. attorney’s office announced it would hire rural prosecutors, and some communities will receive Alaska Trooper posts for the first time.
“This year’s winners demonstrate the critical role played by the media, locally and nationally, to ensure our justice system lives up to the values that sustain our democracy,” said Karol V. Mason, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.