Extra Extra : March 2005

Police failing to notify schools about sex offenders

Ofelia Casillas of the Chicago Tribune investigated juvenile sex offenders in schools, specifically looking into school knowledge of the sex offender(s) in their school. They found that "some principals were not told that young sex offenders had enrolled in their schools, because the state system designed to notify them is mired in confusion." They found more disturbing data when looking into what types of crimes the juvenile sex offenders had committed. "Of the juveniles registered, 41 percent were found guilty of aggravated or criminal sexual assault, and 33 percent committed aggravated criminal sexual abuse"

High-risk drivers make up majority of DUI offenses

Matthew Junker of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review used arrest data from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to determine that fully 56 percent of the people arrested last year were in the most intoxicated category under Pennsylvania's .08 DUI law. "Statistics for the law's first 11 months -- from Feb. 1, 2004, to the end of that year -- show that more than half of those charged with drunken driving had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent or higher, twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent."

Baseball doctor overstates credentials

Duff Wilson of The New York Times found errors in Dr. Elliot Pellman's stated credentials and education. Pellman is the medical adviser to Major League Baseball, whose testimony praised the recent congressional hearing on steroids. Pelman "has said repeatedly in biographical statements that he has a medical degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. But Dr. Pellman attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he received a medical degree from the New York State Education Department after a one-year residency at SUNY-Stony Brook, state records show." Other descrepancies include he stated that he is an ... Read more ...

Emergency fund used by legislators

Eric Eyre and Scott Finn of the Charleston Gazette examined records of a contingency fund controlled by West Virginia's governor, finding that "Hardy County received $6.7 million from the contingency fund since 1997 - more than any county in the state - even though the county ranks 42nd out of 55 counties in population." The link? Delegate Harold K. Michael, D-Hardy, chairman of the House of Delegates Finance Committee, which helps steer the contingency money. "The governor's contingency fund was set up to help out West Virginians during disasters — floods, fires and ice storms. But during the past eight ... Read more ...

Hispanic girls lack high school sports participation

MaryJo Sylwester, in her swan song at USA TODAY before joining the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, used federal education data to help illustrate the comparative lack of participation in high school sports by Hispanic girls. "Nationally, about 36% of Hispanic sophomore girls played interscholastic sports, compared with 52% of non-Hispanics for the 2001-02 school year." Money doesn't seem to be a factor, but rather the influences of culture and family that may emphasize home obligations over after-school activities.

Inmates awating trial drive up costs

Curtis Johnson of The (Huntingdon) Herald-Dispatch used Cabell County court and jail records to show that ."inmates facing felony charges, most of whom were awaiting trial, accounted for 62 percent of the month's bill. That's important, because if convicted, the state takes over the cost of their imprisonment." The records show that "reducing the jail bill would require a dramatic shift toward speedier trials along with pre-trial and sentencing alternatives."

County jails outdated fail to meet standards

Leon Alligood of The Tennessean reviewed state data to report on overcrowding in county jails. He found that "a total of 26 of the 129 jails statewide have been 'decertified'," because of varying reasons, ranging from unhealthy living conditions, to out-dated facilities. Of the 26 jails that were decertified, the average age of the facilities was 46.5 years old. The story also includes links to sidebars including, few penalties for not meeting standards for jails, some of the state's basic rules for jail standards and information on certified jails that have overcrowding in their detention facilities.

Scout program overstated numbers to entice donors

The investigative team for WAGA-Atlanta investigated claims that Atlanta's inner-city boy scout program grossly overstated their numbers to boost their image, in an attempt to convince potential donors to donate. "Insiders say the way the Boy Scouts account for members and troops inflates its numbers resulting in what insiders call Ghost Scouts and Phantom Troops." They would do this by dispersing scout executives throughout the communities having boys sign flyers saying they were interested in joining the scouts. Then they would take these kids and add them to the list, without checking to see if the boys even took ... Read more ...

Governor's office political dealings in question

Alan Judd of The Atlanta-Jounal Constitution investigated claims that the Georgia governor's office put heat on the state's consumer regulatory office over dealings with a major car dealership and donor to the governor's campaign. "In the Bill Heard Chevrolet case, Hills' inquiry became a key point in a series of events that, Smith says, undermined the agency's already limited authority." The story uncovers numerous accounts of collaboration between the governor's office and the dealership, that eventually led to the firing of the consumer agency's chief, just months away from reaching retirement.

Wal-Mart cashes in incentives, while many employees taking in medicaid

Sydney P. Freedburg and Connie Humburg of the St. Petersburg Times used state records to show that "Wal-Mart and four other large companies that receive state incentives have an estimated 29,900 employees or their family members enrolled in Medicaid. The figures suggest taxpayers may be double-subsidizing low-wage employment by paying companies to create jobs and by paying for the health care of some of those companies' employees." Along with Wal-Mart, Publix Super Markets, Winn-Dixie Stores, Burger King Corp. and Walgreen Co. have the most employees eligible for health care financed by Florida. "Combined, these five firms have been approved ... Read more ...