Mensah Dean
Mensah Dean (Courtesy of

Morgan State University has honored Philadelphia journalist and native Washingtonian for his reporting on an African-American inmate who spent 37 years in solitary confinement.

Mensah M. Dean, a reporter for the Philadelphia Media Network whose articles appear in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and on, was awarded the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence on Thursday, Sept. 21, at the National Press Club in Washington.

The historically Black school in Baltimore said in a statement that Dean humanized convicted killer Arthur Johnson while exposing injustices in the prison system.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the 2017 Vernon Jarret Medal for Journalistic Excellence,” said Dean, also received a check for $10,000. “I am humbled that this award is being bestowed by Morgan State University, a fellow Maryland HBCU.”

Dean, a 20-year journalism veteran and Bowie State University graduate, serves as part of the Justice and Injustice team that focuses on corruption and wrongdoing in the public and private sectors.

In putting a media spotlight on the nearly four decades that Arthur Johnson was held in solitary confinement, Dean humanized the convicted murderer and “exposed a system of injustice within the correctional system to which he had been sent for the rest of his life,” said Morgan State Provost Gloria Gibson.

Johnson was sentenced to life in prison and placed in solitary confinement in a 7×12-foot cell after two escape attempts in 1979. Last year, he told Dean that he “forgot how it feels to touch another person.”

The award is named after the late African-American broadcaster and pioneering American columnist who became a prominent commentator on race relations. He died in 2004.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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