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'Booked And Buried': The Scope And Scale Of Northwest Jail Deaths Revealed

<p>OPB reporter Conrad Wilson interviews&nbsp;Carroll and Roberta Gorg&nbsp;near James Wippel's unmarked grave site at Riverview Cemetery.</p>

Arya Surowidjojo/OPB

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OPB reporter Conrad Wilson interviews Carroll and Roberta Gorg near James Wippel's unmarked grave site at Riverview Cemetery.

For the past year, OPB and the Northwest News Network have been documenting the rising death toll inside county jails across Oregon and Washington.

And the findings of that investigation have been staggering: more than 300 people dead in the past decade, jails struggling to keep suicidal inmates safe and rates of death on the rise even as communities try to slow mass incarceration. 

In the recently released audio documentary "Booked and Buried: Investigating Northwest Jail Deaths," public media journalists Conrad Wilson and Austin Jenkins compile the best of their reporting and tell new stories that reveal who is dying in jail, why they're dying and who is being held responsible. 

Spurred by the reporting this past year, Oregon passed a law that would require the state to collect more data on jail deaths and get a better picture of the problem. Washington lawmakers have said they, too, want to better understand why so many people die in custody. 

The reporting from OPB and the Northwest News Network resulted in a first-of-its-kind database on jail deaths, and the clearest picture to date of the issue. But it also showed that problems are widespread across the criminal justice system — and that both Oregon and Washington have a long way to go to meet their legal obligation to keep inmates safe

Listen to the hour-long documentary in the audio player at the top of this article.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Ryan Haas has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting since 2013. His work has won numerous awards, including two National Magazine Award nominations for the podcast "Bundyville." Prior to working at OPB, Haas worked at newspapers in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and the Caribbean.