On May 24, 2023, the American Bar Association awarded The Maine Monitor government accountability reporter Samantha Hogan with the Silver Gavel Award for her Pulitzer Center reporting project, Eavesdropping in Maine Jails.
Eavesdropping in Maine Jails documented how law enforcement recorded confidential phone calls between incarcerated people and their attorneys. Putatively subject to attorney-client privilege, which protects the the content of such conversations, nearly 1,000 calls were illegally intercepted and accessed in six county jails across the state. The four-part series compiled call records into a searchable public database. It also explained the consequences of authorities tapping sensitive discussions for leverage or prosecutorial advantage.
Following the series’ publication, Maine Governor Janet Mills instructed the state Department of Corrections to collaborate with state legislators to review county jails call-recording policies. Weighing recommendations from an independent study group, legislators proposed two bills which would make calls to lawyers free in Maine jails and carve out explicit protection for inmates’ attorney-client privilege. Some county jails and phone contractors have moved to curb illicit listening ahead of the legislature.
In February 2023, Hogan received the Free Speech and Open Government Award from the First Amendment Coalition (FAC), a California-based nonprofit organization for Eavesdropping in Maine Jails. The project was also long-listed by the Sigma Awards, which “celebrate the best data journalism from around the world,” according to their website. It was also a finalist for the 2022 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Awards.
The Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts “recognize work [that is] exemplary in helping foster the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system.” American Bar Association president Deborah Enix-Ross will present the 65th Anniversary Silver Gavel Awards on July 25 at 5:30pm at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. It will also be livestreamed on the American Bar Association’s website.
Eavesdropping in Maine Jails also received support from the International Women’s Media Foundation.