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by Josh Mayfield, Springfield

I can’t help but notice that in Steve Pokin’s most recent “in-depth” reporting on the new additions to the county jail, the coverage feels more like that of a police stenographer than a seasoned reporter digging into a story.

If there is any critical analysis in the reporting that explains why arrests and detentions seem to be on the rise, I must have missed it entirely. The article tends to take for granted claims such as “Now, inmates are incarcerated far more often for serious, violent crimes,” without doing anything to source these claims beyond the anecdote of a member of the sheriff’s department.

What kind of in-depth reporting doesn’t even do the bare minimum of sourcing such provocative claims? There’s also zero pushback to the perpetuation of the narrative of “mentally ill = violent” by Capt. Dave Johnson, despite decades of serious research that debunks such harmful tropes that I’m sure, are easily available to Mr. Pokin. Instead, Mr. Pokin’s reporting seems to take at face value all claims being made by members of the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.

Due to my work with the Southwest Missouri Solidarity Network, I hear from the homeless community at least weekly, complaining about being targeted with trespassing tickets and checked for warrants. I also believe it might be worth reporting on the lack of public transit out to the jail, leaving newly released detainees with few options if they don’t have anyone to pick them up.

Overall, for a rather long article that posed as a deep dive into the topic, Mr. Pokin’s column seems to be sorely lacking in the kind of journalistic integrity, nuance, and basic investigative skills one would expect from a veteran journalist. I hope going forward that the Answer Man would stick to explaining place names and fun facts about the city if he’s not going to bother to source claims or dig deeper than surface level.

Josh Mayfield identifies himself as a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and an organizer with Southwest Missouri Solidarity Network.

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