Women Beyond Bars is a journalism and advocacy project produced by West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media.
Beginning in the fall of 2018, students at WVU began investigating the causes and effects of the mass incarceration of women in West Virginia, which incarcerates women at higher rates than most of the United States. The increasing number of women behind bars takes an economic as well as sociological toll on the state’s communities.
The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation funded the project, which engages students from both the journalism and public relations and advertising disciplines in a two-year effort to document the problem of women’s incarceration, offer evidence-based solutions and create awareness that could lead to changes in policy and practice.
The students are taking a solutions-based approach to reporting. This model, created by the Solutions Journalism Network, seeks to rebalance the news through rigorous reporting of both problems and their solutions.
The journalism component of the project includes multimedia news stories, documentary work, data visualization, community engagement, and social distribution.
In addition to having a strong journalism focus, the project engages advertising and public relations students to develop messaging and campaigns that raise public awareness and advocate for change. As part of that effort, students are engaging with influencers such as politicians and policy makers, scholars, activists and community leaders.
The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, now part of the Inasmuch Foundation, was founded in 1982 by Edith Kinney Gaylord. The foundation’s mission is to invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information.