Over the past decade, more than 300 inmates have died in Washington and Oregon jails, according to a first-of-its-kind accounting by Northwest public media outlets. More than half of the inmates who died were awaiting trial. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins reports on the prevalence of deaths among unconvicted inmates, and sits down to talk about his reporting with All Things Considered host Ed Ronco.
Listen to the story and subsequent conversation — part of the in-depth series “Booked and buried” — above. Jenkins collaborated with KUOW and Oregon Public Broadcasting on this in-depth coverage.
Jenkins says the reporting involved months of collecting and compiling data, in some cases “haggling” with jails to get the information needed, and analyzing it to tell a complete story that had never been told before.
“We had to enter it by hand into a database,” he told Ronco. “It’s definitely a team effort.”
Jenkins added that he and the other reporters were motivated to tackle this project due to a lack of scrutiny of jails across the region.
“As a state government reporter, I’m drawn to examples where we don’t have the services or the capacity to care for the most vulnerable individuals,” Jenkins said. “Unlike the prison system, there’s no state oversight.”