As journalists, we’re often trying to provide readers with the big picture, but the small pieces of the mosaic can sometimes be just as important.
It goes something like, “Here is an example of this issue, now let me explain to you how it fits into the greater scheme of things.”
But the big picture can at times be blinding. So, when there are drastic changes approaching in the California prison system, how can we as journalists explain to readers the true impact these changes will carry?
It’s in the details, of course.
What my colleague, Sean Emery, and I wanted to do was break down on a smaller, detailed level what the realignment process meant to each and every resident – in their pocket and their neighborhood. Most people don’t come into contact with the prison or justice system, and the idea of “realigning” the responsibility from the state department of corrections to county agencies seems distant. After all, what does it matter where the criminals are, as long as it’s not near me?
In visiting the issue, we broke the topic down into three pieces to explain it effectively to readers: what will this mean in your county courthouse, in your county jail, and to probation offices. Intermingled with these topics are other essential questions that must be answered including, who will pay for the changes, who is in charge of these major changes, and what impact will it have to culture in our streets and our jails?
Our three part series included:
Part 1: State to begin sending inmates to O.C.
Part 2: State inmates could fill, change O.C. jails
Part 3: O.C. probation officials prepare for released prisoners
We also built an interactive timeline to better explain how the process, and plan, came to fruition.
Large portion of the prison system is rehabilitation, and whether career criminals are behind bars or on parolee can bring drastic changes to our neighborhoods – even for those who will never see the inside of a jail cell.
Realignment will bring drastic changes to the way the state’s prison system is run. The big picture is this: what state officials have done for years is now the responsibility of county agencies, including housing, monitoring and rehabilitation.
To truly understand the impact of these changes, I believe, you must understand how things will be done differently, the amount of money that will go into these changes and what it will mean on a day to day basis. Otherwise, the true meaning of the big picture can be lost.