The UCLA Anderson School of Management has named the ProPublica investigation “Busted” a finalist in in the 2017 Gerald Loeb Awards, one of the most prestigious honors in business journalism. The series — published in partnership with The New York Times Magazine, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Tampa Bay Times — is a finalist in the investigative category.
Written by reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders, the stories illuminate how roadside drug tests deployed by law enforcement nationwide have been used to send tens of thousands of people to jail every year — despite evidence showing that these tests routinely produce false positives. Increasingly taking the place of scientific review in crime labs, the $2 drug tests can lead to wrongful convictions that can include lengthy jail sentences, felony records, unemployment and undeserved social stigma.
The reporting had significant impact, including prompting the district attorney’s office in Portland, Oregon, to review its drug possession cases. The office discovered five wrongful convictions and vacated them. Portland’s district attorney’s office ultimately changed the way it secured guilty pleas in drug possession cases based on these tests. Now such pleas will not be allowed unless the preliminary roadside test is confirmed by lab analysis. In Texas, a state commission recommended that crime labs review all field test results and re-test results in previous cases that had not been confirmed by lab testing.
Winners will be announced in June. See the full list of finalists here.