Alabama Media Group Partners with the David Mathews Center for Civic Life to Study Alabama’s prison problems

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Alabama Media Group is teaming with one of the country's leading organizations promoting civic engagement to involve more Alabamians in conversations about solutions for prison overcrowding.

A partnership of the Alabama Media Group's Investigative Journalism Lab and the David Mathews Center for Civic Life was announced August 7, 2014. The partners in the initiative will work to engage the public statewide on prison overcrowding and related issues, and to encourage thoughtful deliberation in both the state’s digital town square,, and in face-to-face public forums.

The Mathews Center's interest in the project came following months of reporting on conditions and challenges in Alabama's prisons by the Investigative Journalism Lab, in which Alabama Media Group is a partner with WBHM and the Center for Investigative Reporting. That work culminated in June with publication of a special, 16-page section in The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile’s Press-Register. The work remains available at and on WBHM, where it can be seen and heard at

Chris McCauley, executive director of the David Mathews Center, notes that the work done by the Lab's investigation has caused Alabamians to begin an examination of their personal concerns with prison overcrowding. People are starting to realize, he said, that the issue impacts everyone. That shared realization has effectively defined the problem for the public.

"In order to effectively engage citizens on the issue, it is necessary to name and frame prison overcrowding in public terms," he said. "Specifically, we need to identify concerns around the issue, determine what people hold valuable, frame multiple approaches to addressing the issue, highlight tensions between the approaches, and identify possible costs and consequences."

Alabama Media Group and the David Mathews Center will take the "framing" step on this project in a workshop on Aug. 7 at Alabama Media Group's Birmingham hub. Results from the workshop will be shared with the public in an online event later in August. Public forums on prison overcrowding will be held in the fall in Huntsville, Birmingham, Auburn and Mobile.

"We are proud of the Lab's work, which shows that Alabama must either reform its prison system or spend many hundreds of millions of dollars on new prisons. We tried hard to involve our audience in shaping that work, and we were thrilled when another great Alabama organization, the Mathews Center, proposed these further efforts to engage the public on these issues. We are excited about the work to come,” said vice president of content of Alabama Media Group, Michelle Holmes.

About Alabama Media Group

Alabama Media Group is a digitally focused news organization encompassing all content, marketing and sales operations for Birmingham magazine,, The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, Press-Register, The Mississippi Press and

By bringing together the journalistic excellence of our award-winning publications with the up-to-the-minute information of, we solidify our position as Alabama's No. 1 news and information provider ensuring the communities we serve have 24/7 access to what's happening in their world.

About the David Mathews Center for Civic Life

The David Mathews Center for Civic Life is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt corporation. Its purpose is to foster infrastructure, habits, and capacities for more effective civic engagement and innovative decision making. More information can be found on the center’s website:

Formerly the Alabama Institute for Community Leadership Development, the center was named for Mathews in 2008. The son of Grove Hill, AL is president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation based in Ohio, which is focused on improving how democracy works. He was president of the University of Alabama from 1969 until 1980, except for a year and a half when he was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the President Gerald Ford administration (August 1975-January 1977).

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Erin Chambers
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