Samantha Hogan, a Pulitzer Center grantee and government accountability reporter for The Maine Monitor, has won the 2022 Free Speech and Open Government Award from the First Amendment Coalition (FAC) for her Center-supported project Eavesdropping in Maine Jails. The FAC, a California-based nonprofit organization, announced the award winners on February 27, 2023. Journalists Laurence Du Sault of Open Vallejo and Fred Schulte of Kaiser Health News also received the award.
“The work of Samantha, Laurence, and Fred exemplifies some of the best public interest journalism today,” said David Snyder, executive director of the FAC. “Their dogged determination to unearth the truth, through countless interviews, public-records requests, and even litigation where necessary, demonstrates how a free press empowered by the law of access to public information is the lifeblood of our democracy.”
— The Maine Monitor (@mainemonitor) February 27, 2023
For Eavesdropping in Maine Jails, Hogan investigated how confidential phone calls between people incarcerated within Maine jails and their attorneys were illegally recorded by law enforcement. She found that nearly 1,000 attorney-client calls were improperly recorded and accessed in six county jails across the state. The series of stories, published in The Maine Monitor, exposed this breach of confidentiality and the real effects on people seeking legal counsel from jail. Hogan spent two and a half years reporting, made 100 public record requests, and compiled the call records into a searchable public database.
The investigation prompted Maine lawmakers to review legislation, citing Hogan’s reporting. Maine Governor Janet Mills instructed the state Department of Corrections to work with legislators in reviewing the jails’ phone call-recording policies. State legislators are set to review proposed changes from an independent study group. Most recently, two proposed bills would make calls to lawyers free in Maine jails, and explicitly protect them with attorney-client privilege.
The annual Free Speech and Open Government Award “recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of free expression or the people’s right to know about their government,” according to the FAC. The award comes with a $1,000 prize.
The project has also previously won first place for Investigative Reporting from Report for America, where Hogan was a 2019 corps member.
Congratulations to Hogan and The Maine Monitor on this recognition! Read the findings from Eavesdropping in Maine Jails here.