Friday, April 08, 2016

Nonprofit investigative unit in Ky. wins top industry honor for stories on rural jailers without jails

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has been honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors with its annual award for radio investigative journalism for the series "Jailers Without Jails." KyCIR is a privately funded arm of WFPL, an FM station operated by Louisville Public Media. KyCir fills a gap in rural Kentucky watchdog reporting.

"KyCIR's R.G. Dunlop and WFPL's Jacob Ryan collaborated on the investigative report, which aired in January 2015," reports KyCIR. "The duo revealed that more than a third of Kentucky's counties have no jails, yet all 41 of these counties have elected jailers. The investigation examined a nepotism-laced, but little-discussed, jailers system that costs Kentucky taxpayers approximately $2 million annually. The reporting prompted several calls for reforms. A state lawmaker filed a bill that calls for more oversight of the no-jail jailers. That legislation passed the Senate but is awaiting consideration in the House. The Kentucky Jailers Association has acknowledged the need for reforms, but has been mum about any such changes." (KyCIR map: Kentucky counties with no jailers. To view an interactive version click here)
KyCIR has continued to follow the story. "Legislation designed to hold Kentucky’s jailers more accountable has achieved mixed results so far in this year’s General Assembly," Dunlop reports in a story published Thursday. "A bill that would require jailers who don’t have a jail to run to file quarterly progress reports with their county fiscal courts passed the Senate but is awaiting consideration in the House. Legislators are set to reconvene in Frankfort for a day next week, concluding this year’s regular session. And Sen. Danny Carroll, who sponsored the bill, said he’s hopeful that the bill will pass."

"No-jail jailers were paid salaries ranging from $20,000 to nearly $70,000, KyCIR found," Dunlop writes. "Jailer-accountability legislation that Carroll proposed last year in the wake of KyCIR’s reports passed the Senate but died in the House. That bill would have given fiscal courts some control over jailers’ salaries. Carroll said he removed that element from his latest proposal because of concerns from jailers that fiscal courts would have power to negatively manipulate salaries of jailers elected from an opposing party. A second measure, filed by Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville, would create a panel to review deaths and near-deaths in Kentucky’s state and local correctional facilities. After the proposal was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, it never received so much as a hearing."

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