In 2015 a federal judge in Seattle ruled that the state of Washington was violating the constitutional rights of mentally ill jail inmates by not evaluating and treating them quickly enough so they could stand trial. The day before that ruling Evon Bercier's 32-year-old son Shawn was locked up in the Spokane County Jail.
Shawn was in jail for assaulting a staff member at the psychiatric hospital where he was being treated. Our Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins told the story of Shawn and his mother to illustrate the problems Washington was facing in evaluating and treating inmates with mental illness before trial. That reporting won recognition Saturday night from the Society of Professional Journalists with a first place award in the general news category for radio in the Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.
Austin co-hosted the SPJ gala with Sonya Green of KBCS-FM Bellevue. Austin's work was also recognized in the investigative category for his serial reports, "Locked Up For Skipping School."
Our Tri-Cities Correspondent Anna King was named Journalist of the Year by the Western Washington SPJ Pro Chapter in recognition of her reporting and her mentoring of aspiring journalists. Anna also won three Northwest Excellence in Journalism awards: Two first place wins for her wildfire coverage—one for radio and one for visuals with photographer Ian C. Bates—and a third place honor for her year-long project "Daughters of Hanford" in the radio special report category.
Our new Inland Northwest Correspondent Emily Schwing was also recognized for her reporting on the Iditarod in Alaska, which she covered before she joined our staff.
Congratulations to Emily, Anna and Austin, and thank you for supporting their work.