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From start to finish, highlighting 2007
By Jim Montalto, News Editor
Published: 01/07/2008

Checkflag Corrections.com editorial staff took some time to reflect on the stories they’ve covered through the year. Much like years past, the corrections field was filled with innovate, challenging, controversial and optimistic times. Trying to cover the far-reaching range of debates, good work and topics that seem to infiltrate this world is a huge task.

In addition, Corrections.com experienced its share of challenges this year, as a reporter left the staff. With that, though, came new opportunities when our spring intern took the role as head writer last July. Since then, Ann Coppola has assumed her role with the energy and excitement of a new puppy, and she has provided new perspectives too as she learns about the field.

We were able to post many, many great stories of our own, but our numerous contributors, and their years of professional experience, provided the most realistic picture of corrections we’ve ever been able to offer.

Some stories created controversy, and continue to do so, which is why they made the best of ’07 list. Others were so inspirational they had to be highlighted, not only to show readers outside the industry what corrections truly does, but also to continue to inspire those in the field.

The year also was a great one because of your continued support, whether it was through article submissions, opinions or thoughtful commentary. We encourage you to continue to contribute to our site, as it makes Corrections.com a true community site for and about corrections. With that, we pledge to do all we can to fairly cover the topics most important to you as we plunge, without hesitation, into the new year.

Picks from Corrections.com reporter Ann Coppola, followed by her comments on why she chose them:

Crossing the line - When I look for the top corrections news of the day to post, I unfortunately tend to come across one or two stories of a corrections officer having an alleged inappropriate relationship with an inmate. Still, the fact that for the past couple of years the majority of perpetrators of staff sexual misconduct with an inmate in state or federal prison have been women surprised me. This issue struck a nerve with our readers, and the comments they wrote show that it is an important one that calls for open discussion and demands more staff training.

Illuminate and educate - From National Geographic Channel's “Prison Nation” to "Prison Break" to the behind bars storyline on "My Name is Earl," corrections was a topic this year that kept television audiences tuned in. When I covered the MTV documentary "Juvies," I got to talk to the show’s creator for a behind-the-scenes look at not only the making of a TV show, but the juvenile justice system as well. The show offered a fresh perspective on what it means to be in "juvie," even as it turns out, to a juvenile judge with more than 25 years of experience.

The waiting list for life - To hear someone tell you what they're about to say is going to be controversial and even upsetting is an invigorating experience for the novice reporter. That's exactly what happened to me when I investigated the debate behind inmates getting on the ever-growing U.S. organ donation list. This is an issue where medical ethics, legal complications, and correctional budgets collide head on, and sorting through its layers was a thought-provoking challenge.

Picks from other Corrections.com staff. The following were staff favorites because of the interesting topics and varying views of the industry that they provided.

Heated interpretations - A timely piece on the controversy surrounding the use of pepper spray.

A taste of the Kiwi spirit - This was our first international feature and inspired us to launch an international focus for the 2008 editorial calendar.

Lockdown luxury - About this article, Ann Coppola said, “There's really no other way to put it: this story was a fun one. For one building to go from a condemned jail with living conditions deemed inhumane to a multimillion dollar luxury hotel took a lot of imagination and nerve. This was one extreme makeover I had to see for myself, and I was lucky enough to get to tour and photograph the historic Boston landmark. I'm not sure if you'll ever see me checking into the Liberty Hotel, but the story certainly is a fascinating addition to corrections lore and culture.”

Editor’s pick from contributor feature stories

Helping Katrina's kids, by Don Dease - This piece provides a wonderful look at how corrections folks will go above and beyond to help one another and their community.

Joe Bouchard took a reverent and thought-provoking examination of 9/11 and how those lessons learned still apply today in his piece, We remember still

Len Sipes in Washington, DC offered important media expertise with his two very timely and still relevant pieces, Managing a media frenzy? Stick to the script. and So you want to podcast?

Readers could always count on the straightforward, “tell it like it is” writing of Tracy Barnhart. His pieces always generated positive feedback from appreciative readers about the honest and helpful advice he offers. The one that generated the most buzz was his two-part series about managing hostage situations starting with When the “never happens” happens to you.

Berkeley Harris generated much reader commentary too when he wrote about the stigma of being an offender that continues once outside of prison in his article, The Way Back Home: The transition factor.

Now, on to 2008!


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