CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- New York Times reporter Sam Dolnick has won the 2012 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism for his three-part series "Unlocked: Inside New Jersey's Halfway Houses."During an "exhaustive" 10-month investigation of New Jersey's privately run halfway house, Dolnick discovered a "broken and horribly flawed correctional system in which gang activity, drug use, sexual assaults and other violent behavior were commonplace and where lax security led to hundreds of annual escapes," according to a news release from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.In selecting "Unlocked," judges praised Dolnick's "powerful writing, the depth and scope of the investigation and the ability of the series to spur meaningful reforms."Unlocked" prompted calls for change and led to hearings in both houses of New Jersey's state legislature, resulting in the introduction of 14 reform bills.
The series also exposed the close ties between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Community Education Centers, the company that runs many of the halfway houses, according to the release.Dolnick, 32, was named deputy sports editor at The New York Times in February. Before that, he was a reporter on the Metro Desk of The Times. From 2002-2004, he worked as a reporter at the Staten Island Advance before joining the Associated Press. In 2007, he moved to New Dehli as a foreign correspondent for AP.The Worth Bingham Prize honors investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is being ill-served. Judges are guided by such factors as obstacles overcome in getting information, accuracy, clarity of analysis and writing system, magnitude of the situation, and impact on the public, including any reports that may have resulted, according to the news release.The $20,000 Bingham Prize will be presented to Dolnick on May 9 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.