In August 2018, Gary Harki and his O’Brien student intern team published a multimedia series and database called “Jailed in Crisis” in The Virginian-Pilot.
The first-of-its-kind series drew from news reports, existing databases and court filings to identify 404 deaths of people with mental illness in jails across the nation since 2010. The resulting dataset revealed that in jails around the country, people with mental illnesses are routinely dying in horrific and preventable ways.
Harki and his team published several stories highlighting specific trends in their data. They also worked with former Virginian-Pilot Interactive Graphics Editor Will Houp to design data visualizations, and an interactive database that allows readers to filter and read about individual cases based on different criteria.
Marquette student journalists Alexandria Bursiek, Rebecca Carballo and Diana Dombrowski received byline credit for the series in addition to writing their own sidebar pieces. They played key roles in researching and reporting the series over two semesters and went on out-of-town reporting trips during their winter and spring breaks.
The series won the 2019 Al Nakkula Award for police reporting, which is co-sponsored by the Denver Press Club and the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication and Information. It was also a finalist for the Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism by the News Leaders Association (formerly the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors).
The work published to date:
Horrific deaths, brutal treatment: Mental illness in America’s jails
These are the people with mental illness who have died in America's jails
How states track (and don't track) deaths of jail inmates with mental illness
Warnings about mental illness often go unheeded
Suicides are most common cause of jail deaths, and many are preventable
Use-of-force cases often the most harrowing of documented deaths
Of the 404 known cases, lawsuits have been filed in more than half
Excited delirium: a controversial cause of death
Isolation in jail, used for safety and punishment, can exacerbate mental illness
How one woman survived her mental illness isolated in jail with only the voices in her head for company
Giving hope: Court program helps people with mental illness avoid jail
Jailing people with mental illness is a national problem. The solutions are local.