J-School faculty, students and alumni collaborate on KQED investigative podcast

February 12, 2024

The photo is black and white. It shows a jail tower and metal fence with barbed wire. A man is seen in the top corner of the photo looking down. It is produced by Npr network and is titled "On Our Watch."


The second season of the award-winning KQED investigative podcast “On Our Watch” — reported by alum Sukey Lewis’ (’15) and Julie Small — takes listeners inside California State Prison, Sacramento, known as New Folsom. The podcast tells the story of two correctional officers who work in an elite investigative unit and what happens when they report corruption and abuse by their fellow officers.

According to a KQED media release: “On Our Watch: New Folsom” also gives listeners a window into hundreds of once-confidential documents KQED obtained by suing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [CDCR] that reveal a startling pattern of use of force enabled by a culture of silence at this high-security prison.

“When we confronted CDCR leadership with our findings about off-the-charts use of force at New Folsom, they first denied there was anything unusual about the numbers and then refused to engage with our questions about it,” Lewis says in a press release. “Officials in the country’s best-funded carceral system should feel not only alarmed by what we have uncovered, but also galvanized to do something about it.”

The podcast was scored and produced by Steven Rascón (’22) and Chris Ergusa, with sound design and mixing by Tarek Fouda and fact-checking by Mark Betancourt. The senior editor is Victoria Mauleón (’01).  Kathleen Quinn (’24), Laura Fitzgerald (’24), Cayla Mihalovich (’24), Julietta Bisharyan (’23), William Jenkins (’23), Elizabeth Santos (’23), Armon Owlia (’23), and Junyao Yang (’23) provided research. April Dembosky (’08) was an editorial consultant. Assistant Dean Jeremy Sanchez Rue (‘07) and Amanda Glazer, PhD candidate, UC Berkeley Statistics Department, contributed data analysis. Professor David Barstow, Chair of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, provided support and guidance.

Records used for reporting were obtained as part of The California Reporting project — a collaborative effort of 40 newsrooms created to investigate police misconduct and serious use of force.  Funding for On Our Watch is provided in part by Arnold Ventures and the California Endowment. Additional support for student researchers was provided by the Knight Foundation.

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