Also: Struggle to vaccinate Springfield, Missouri; preventing anti-Asian violence

View this email in your browser
A round-up of reporting from our grantees, upcoming events, and news from the Pulitzer Center

Wrongful Jailing in Chicago Shows Flaws in Police Surveillance Tool

Michael Williams spent 11 months in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, accused of first-degree murder, largely on the basis of evidence from a high-tech surveillance tool that supposedly confirmed a gunshot fired from within his car at a specific location in south Chicago. 

ShotSpotter, the system of acoustic sensors used in Chicago, had initially identified the supposed gunshot as a firecracker. It had pinpointed the location a mile away. The fine print of its contract with the Chicago Police Department said that its sensors could not accurately identify as gunfire sounds emanating from within a vehicle. 

An exposé by grantees at the Associated Press reveals those flaws and more, including ShotSpotter’s use as forensic evidence in some 200 cases across the country thus far, despite the company’s insistence that the algorithms on which the system is based are proprietary and thus not subject to outside review or challenge. The Chicago story is part of Tracked, an ongoing AP series exploring the real-world impacts of society’s growing reliance on algorithms. 

Williams was released this summer, after local prosecutors acknowledged there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case. More like grossly insufficient, it appears, and no amends for 11 months of lost freedom. His story is a wake-up call to us all—to pay more attention to these new technologies, and to insist on adequate oversight.

All Best,

Jon Sawyer
Executive Director

Photo: ShotSpotter equipment overlooks the intersection of South Stony Island Avenue and East 63rd Street in Chicago on August 10, 2021. Image by Charles Rex Arbogast. United States, 2021.
Become a Champion!

Donate any amount to become a Pulitzer Center Champion. In addition to supporting great journalism and educational programming, you’ll also gain exclusive access to donor-only events, like quarterly conversations with Pulitzer grantees and leadership.


The first story of the ongoing Pulitzer Center-supported AP project Tracked, a multi-country investigation into the expansion of surveillance technology in policing, has already attracted the attention of Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who is moving to question Department of Justice funding for artificial intelligence-powered policing technology. After reading the story of Michael Williams, the senator said, “While there continues to be a national debate on policing in America, it’s become increasingly clear that algorithms and technologies used during investigations, like ShotSpotter, can further racial biases and increase the potential for sending innocent people to prison.”


Stories of Mental Health, Stereotypes, and Stigma

August 26, 8:00pm EDT
September 10-12, 17-19, 7:30pm PDT
San Rafael, CA


African Interests at the Next UN Climate Summit at COP26
Ridwan Karim Dini-Osman

PBS NewsHour
Afghans Desperately Try to Flee; U.S. Evacuation Continues
Jane Ferguson

NPR Investigation Reveals Misconduct, Negligence Against Inmates In Tribal Jails
Nate Hegyi 

It's Easy For Police To Seize Money. Worcester's District Attorney Makes It Hard To Get It Back
Shannon Dooling and Saurabh Datar 

Pulitzer Center
On Pepper Spray and Preventing Anti-Asian Violence
Lucia Geng

Pulitzer Center 
The Struggle to Vaccinate Springfield, Missouri
Peter Slevin

Pulitzer Center
‘I Breathe Loma Linda’: How Seventh-Day Adventists in Southern California Are Living Longer
Maiya Mahoney

Pulitzer Center 
We Lost All, But Found Each Other
Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque

Pulitzer Center 
Behind the Story: Daniella Zalcman on 'Signs of Your Identity'
Katherine Jossi and Daniella Zalcman

Pulitzer Center
Pulitzer Center-Supported Project on WWII Sex Slaves Wins Murrow Award
Shana Joseph 

Support journalism and education for the public good!
The Pulitzer Center promotes awareness of underreported global issues through direct support for quality journalism across all media platforms and a unique program of education and public outreach.
You are receiving this email because you either opted in at our website or signed up at a Pulitzer Center event.
Our mailing address is:
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Suite 615
Washington, District Of Columbia 20036

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list