Sun staffers win award for `Charlie Squad' series

Reporter, photographer showed abuse in camps

March 17, 2000|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Todd Richissin, a reporter for The Sun, and staff photographer Andre Chung have received the prestigious George Polk Award for journalistic excellence for their four-part "Charlie Squad" series, which detailed abuse at state-run boot camps for juvenile criminals.

Of the series by Richissin and Chung -- which led to the swift closing of the boot camps -- the judges said, "The scathing report accused the state of institutionalized child abuse, demanded the camps be closed and called on the governor to fire the head of his juvenile justice agency -- all of which were done."

The series, which appeared the first week of December 1999, was one of 13 projects selected for a Polk Award by Long Island University. Richissin and Chung won for regional reporting.

"Now, there is real hope for reform in the juvenile justice system for the first time in decades," said Richissin, 36.

Added Chung, 32: "This was the toughest, most difficult story I've worked on, but one of the most satisfying. I'm glad there was action taken and I hope they don't let up."

The annual awards are given in memory of CBS television correspondent George Polk, who was killed while covering Greece's civil war in the late 1940s.

Other winners included the Philadelphia Inquirer for an investigation into hospital deaths due to medical mistakes; the Chicago Tribune for detailing judicial mistakes that sent 12 innocent men to prison; and a lifetime award to Pulitzer Prize-winning oral historian Studs Terkel.

The awards will be presented April 18 in New York City.

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