Covering prisons: Finding truth in the most guarded institutions in the justice system

  • Event: 2019 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: Keri Blakinger of Houston Chronicle; Ben Conarck of The Florida Times-Union; Michele Deitch of The University of Texas - Austin; Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Date/Time: Thursday, Jun. 13 at 5:00pm
  • Location: Texas F
  • Audio file: No audio file available.

As public interest in the criminal justice system continues to grow, state prison systems and local jails have largely clamped down. What's the best way to get to the truth when you can't go out and interview your subjects at will? How do you deal with spin and obfuscation from public officials? Which public records should reporters look for when covering prisons and jails? Tackle these topics and more for looking closer behind bars.

Speaker Bios

  • Keri Blakinger is a criminal justice reporter at the Houston Chronicle, where she focuses on prisons and death row. @keribla

  • Ben Conarck covers state prisons for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. In the last two years, he has brought to light thousands of unfounded strip searches on female visitors and explained how the Department of Corrections has encouraged private companies to reap profits off prisoners and their loved ones, all while the agency takes a cut. Previously, he reported on the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. On Twitter @conarck.

  • Michele Deitch is an attorney and Senior Lecturer on criminal justice policy at the Univ. of Texas’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.  She is one of the country’s leading experts on correctional oversight, and has been a court-appointed monitor of prison conditions in Texas, a criminal justice consultant, and a policy advisor to the Texas Legislature.  She is a frequent commentator in the national and local media on prison and jail issues, as well as on juvenile justice.

  • Conrad Wilson is a reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. He covers criminal justice, immigration enforcement and legal affairs across the Pacific Northwest. In 2016, he co-produced a podcast called "This Land Is Our Land," about the trial of those who led the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. His work regularly airs on NPR. @conradjwilson

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