is an author, scholar, journalist, and human rights activist, specializing in American history and social justice. In 2001 he conducted a study of wrongful convictions in New York that culminated in a documentary exhibition (2001-) and book entitled, Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases (NYU Press, 2003,2004). After the study was completed, he continued to advocate on behalf of 12 prisoners he had identified as wrongfully convicted. By 2010, only one of the original cases still remained in prison.
Christianson started writing for newspapers when he was 16 and published his first article in The Nation at age 24; at 29 he was profiled as “one of the nation’s top 20 investigative reporters.” He has contributed hundreds of articles to The Nation, the Village Voice, The New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, Scripps Howard News Service, Reuters, Mother Jones, Playboy, Pacific News Service, and other popular periodicals as well as numerous scholarly journals such as the Journal of American History, Crime & Delinquency, Criminal Law Bulletin, and Criminal Justice & Behavior. He’s also written for community radio, and served as a consultant, writer or director on documentaries and feature movies for PBS, HBO, Arte and other TV networks and production companies.
A graduate of the University of Connecticut, he studied investigative reporting at the American Press Institute at Columbia University, and received an M.A. and Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Albany. He has directed numerous research projects and taught at several universities including the University at Albany, Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Empire State College and Bard College. He has also lectured at Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, John F. Kennedy Library, and dozens of other venues. Some of his scholarly writing has been cited by the United States Supreme Court.
After graduate school, he held several positions in New York state criminal justice system, including as director of prison investigations for the state’s corrections watchdog agency, executive assistant to the State Director of Criminal Justice, deputy director of probation and correctional alternatives, and deputy director of parole operations. He also spent seven years as a gubernatorial aide. After leaving government he worked for several advocacy and reform organizations before turning to full-time writing and teaching.
He has won numerous awards for his journalism, writing, and community service. He has appeared on CBS evening News, ABC World News, CNN, C-Span, the History Channel, BBC, NPR, ARD and local TV and radio. He has also testified about wrongful convictions before government committees in New York and New Jersey.
Several of the cases described in Innocent received national publicity. His efforts have aided several wrongfully convicted persons to win their freedom.
Scott is married and has three children. He lives in upstate New York.