An investigative series by Samantha Hogan, who was hired as The Maine Monitor’s first full-time reporter in 2019 and has established herself as one of the state’s top investigative reporters, received honorable mention recognition for investigative reporting in a contest conducted by the Institute for Nonprofit News.
Four newsrooms, including the Monitor, in the contest’s medium division (newsrooms with annual revenues between $250,000 and $1 million) were acknowledged by INN judges for superior investigative reporting that produced significant impact in the community.
INN is a national organization supporting more than 400 nonprofit newsrooms dedicated to non-partisan, public service journalism.
Hogan’s “Eavesdropping in Maine Jail” series revealed that in at least four Maine jails, nearly 1,000 attorney-client calls were recorded in a single year and the recordings were shared with police and prosecutors before trial. The Maine Monitor has continued to publish other details about jail recordings.
Hogan made 100 public record requests to county sheriff’s offices to collect records about the state’s 15 jails’ contracts, policies, revenue, usernames, call logs and recording access reports with their private phone vendors.
Hogan compiled the call records into a searchable database, which The Maine Monitor made available for free online so the public could search to see if their attorney-client phone calls were recorded.
Hogan contacted all 46 law firms that appear in the database and lawyers said it was the first time they were notified that a jail had recorded their client’s privileged calls.
Following publication of the still-ongoing series, lawyers and state officials expressed dismay, concern and outrage about the practice. Gov. Janet Mills instructed the Department of Corrections to work with legislators on a solution.
While lawmakers entertained a bill that would penalize a person who “knowingly eavesdrops” on a conversation between an attorney and a defendant, lawmakers settled on the formation of a study group to review policies for attorney-client contact and recommend possible changes. That study group is meeting this fall.
The winning investigative report in the Monitor’s division was an investigation by The Appeal into how a culture of neglect at the New York Police Department left inexperienced and poorly trained officers in charge of the department’s sex crime cases.
Other investigative reports receiving honorable mentions were an investigation by the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism that dug into the global lottery industry and an investigation by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lack of oversight of flea and tick collars for pets.
Read the full investigation: Eavesdropping in Maine Jails.
Readers can support the investigative work by Samantha and the Monitor’s other reporters by making a donation.