WBUR Debuts New Investigative Series


Boston’s NPR News Station WBUR has released a new 4-part investigative series called “Dying On The Sheriff’s Watch.”

WBUR Investigations is a new unit led by award-winning journalists Christine Willmsen and Beth Healy. They found that over the past decade, when county jail inmates in Massachusetts suffered from dire medical conditions, poor medical care led to suffering and deaths.

On any given day in the Commonwealth, there are about 9,500 people held in county jails, more than in the state’s prisons. Two-thirds are awaiting trial, and the rest are serving short sentences. This investigation from WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, is the first accounting of 195 deaths in county jails over a decade, the details of which are often kept secret. A number of these deaths were never even reported to the federal government, as required by law.

The series examines who should be held accountable and aims to address the failures of this system through the eyes of inmates and their families. The reporting underscores the power that Massachusetts elected sheriffs hold.

“We tracked who died and why in the custody of elected sheriffs, and how families struggled to find answers,” said Beth Healy, senior investigative reporter at WBUR. “We learned from our conversations that families were often left in the dark around the circumstances of what happened to their loved ones, keeping justice out of reach.”

“Dying On The Sheriff’s Watch” will air in four consecutive parts on WBUR’s Morning Edition (5-9 a.m.) and stories will be published online each day from Tuesday, March 24 through Friday, March 27.



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