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Virginian-Pilot reporter Gary Harki wins award for investigation on mental illness in America's jails

Virginian-Pilot - 2/14/2019

Feb. 14--Virginian-Pilot reporter Gary Harki was announced Thursday as this year's winner of the Al Nakkula Award for police reporting.

Harki was honored for his work on the series "Jailed in Crisis," which looked nationwide at deaths of prisoners with mental illness. The series, reported largely during a year-long public service fellowship at Marquette University, examined hundreds of cases and has led to further investigations and an expanded awareness of the issue.

"Gary's work shines a light on what happens when Americans with mental illness end up in jail," Virginian-Pilot Editor-in-Chief Marisa Porto said. "It's clear from his stories that the criminal justice system is often used as a warehouse for those who fall through the cracks.

"We are proud that Gary's work has been honored with this award, and we hope his stories spark a national discussion about what can and should be done to keep our most vulnerable citizens from dying behind bars."

Named in honor of a police reporter who worked for 46 years at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colo., the award is given annually by the Denver Press Club and University of Colorado'sCollege of Media, Communication and Information.

"Harki's reporting discovered highly disturbing trends," said CU News Corps Director Chuck Plunkett, who oversaw the selection process. "Too often, those being held against their will for lack of appropriate beds in clinical settings are subjected to inhuman treatment."


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