To report the five-part series, Star Tribune journalists spent more than a year examining hundreds of juvenile court cases dating back to 2018 that involved violent crimes.
"Many of the young people charged in those incidents had committed previous offenses, leading us to ask whether Minnesota's juvenile justice system was fulfilling its core promise of rehabilitating youth while protecting public safety," staff wrote in a note at the bottom of each story that explained how the series was reported.
The investigation revealed that counties across the state are failing to intervene early enough to help troubled youth, despite pleas from parents, and that the quality of youth rehabilitation programs varies widely from county to county. Some juvenile judges also said they have run out of places to send many youth with trauma and mental health problems because of facility closures and a national movement to reduce youth confinement.
After the series was published, state DFLers proposed a package of bills aiming to correct Minnesota's patchwork response to youth crime by creating a new state office of juvenile restorative justice. The proposals also would expand funding for crime prevention measures and make changes to a probation program that has funneled hundreds of teenagers to adult prisons.
If enacted, the legislation would mark the most significant expansion of state oversight of the juvenile justice system since the early 1990s.
Key legislators say changes to Minnesota's juvenile justice system are likely this session, but declined to detail them. The Legislature is in session for two more weeks and is still working on public safety bills.
The Wall Street Journal staff won the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for a series of articles on financial conflicts of interest among officials at 50 federal agencies. Joaquin Palomino and Trisha Thadani of the San Francisco Chronicle were also finalists in the category for an investigation into the city's failure to fulfill promises to provide safe housing for its homeless citizens.
In a written note, Suki Dardarian, Star Tribune editor and senior vice president, lauded the newsroom's work on the series, with special recognition of reporters Liz Sawyer and Chris Serres, data editor MaryJo Webster and photographer Jerry Holt.
"The package not only uncovered systemic problems in our juvenile justice system, but it told those stories through the people that built the system and those whose lives have been changed by it," Dardarian wrote. "It continues to inform the civic debate at a critical time in this community, and it showed the possible paths forward."
This is the second year in a row that the Star Tribune was named a finalist in the investigative reporting category. It is the fourth time since 2016 that the newsroom has been a finalist for the awards, considered a top honor in journalism. The staff won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for coverage of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The 2023 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction was awarded to two Washington Post reporters, Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, for the book "His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice."
In a statement Monday, the civil legal team that represented Floyd's family offered congratulations to Samuels and Olorunnipa.
"These two incredible writers took an unflinching look at America's history of racist policies and practices and detailed how they influenced George Floyd's life and death," the statement from attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms said. "We admire these top-tier journalists' dedication to this important, nuanced and compelling work."
The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press led the Pulitzer news categories this year, with two awards each.
Staff writer Rochelle Olson contributed to this report.