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AL.com spent 2014 digging into Alabama's prison problems, interviewing hundreds of people involved in the system, poring through medical contracts and salaries and discipline records and staffing reports and lawsuits and internal investigative files and much more. They began by announcing what we were going to do. Then they began reporting, occasionally sharing process updates on records requests and reporting milestones. At times they asked readers what they wanted to know, who they wanted to hear from, what they thought of official responses. AL.com solicited reader experiences inside prisons and received hundreds of responses to build a database of potential sources and continued with classic reporting, speaking to all sides, examining records, finding out what went wrong, who was profiting, finding prison doctors who lost licenses for sleeping with patients, wardens who were promoted after beating inmates.
This investigative reporting exposed the broad reach and the real effects of violent convicts waging digital attacks from inside prison using smuggled smartphones and social media, prompting a new push for change among state and federal lawmakers. Since no statistics exist to quantify how smuggled cellphones are being used when they make it behind bars, this reporting required extensive research with prison guards, wardens and other workers at lockups statewide.
"Pennsylvania's dog wardens have been extremely lenient in policing licensed dog kennels. Our analysis of kennel inspection records, the first of its kind, showed that the vat majority of inspections recorded not a single violation, and even when violations were found, authorities almost never took firm action."
Jennifer Gonnerman reports on Rikers Island, "home to 80 percent of its 14,600 or so inmates, with nine jails for men and one for women." The in-depth article details life in these jails and illustrates the difference between men and women behind bars. In addition, the article provides insight into punishment, discipline structure and morale in this multi-million dollar jail system through interviews with wardens, commissioners and inmates. Gonnerman also examines issues including violence, gangs, suicide, pregnancy and retention.