Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia–based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. He regularly files stories for NPR News. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin was a freelance general assignment reporter at KING–TV, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. He also worked as a freelance education reporter for KPLU–FM, the Tacoma–based NPR station. Austin spent 2001 in Washington, D.C. as a Knight Foundation/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Austin has also worked as a television reporter in Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; and Bozeman, Montana. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and has a B.A. in Government from Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Over the years Austin has won numerous professional awards for his reporting. He lives in Olympia with his wife Jennifer Huntley and their two children.

Read Austin's blog, "The Washington Ledge: Dispatches From Olympia."

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Mental Health Boarding
3:02 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Affirms Mental Health ‘Boarding’ Unlawful

The Temple of Justice in Olympia.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The practice of “boarding” mental health patients in hospital emergency rooms is unlawful. That’s the unanimous ruling Thursday from the Washington Supreme Court. The justices upheld a lower court ruling in the case of 10 psychiatric patients. They were involuntarily detained under state law and then placed in non-psychiatric beds. Emily Cooper is an attorney with Disability Rights Washington. She calls the ruling a victory for severely mentally ill patients.

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Washington Primaries
6:37 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Two Republicans Advancing In Washington Congressional Race

Washington congressional candidate Clint Didier.
Credit Clint Didier campaign

Washington’s August primary appears to have delivered an historic first. Two Republicans are likely to advance to the November election in central Washington’s Fourth Congressional District. Never before has the state’s top-two primary produced two contenders of the same party for a Congressional seat. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Ambert Alert
7:08 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Amber Alert Helps But Most Cases Solved By Police

This week marks the one-year anniversary of a multi-state AMBER Alert involving a kidnapped California teenager. Sixteen-year-old Hannah Anderson was ultimately rescued in the Idaho backcountry. Her captor was shot to death by a federal agent. This is just one of the nearly 700 cases where the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe return of a child. But the emergency system has its limitations.

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Washington Politics
6:48 am
Tue August 5, 2014

California Billionaire Tom Steyer Plans To Help Washington Democrats

Tom Steyer is an American hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist. He is founder and former Co-Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management, LLC and the co-founder of the OneCalifornia Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank.
Credit Tom Seyer / Wikicommons

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer plans to try to help Democrats win back the Washington state Senate. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins received that confirmation yesterday.  

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Washington State Primary
6:22 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Washington Primary Will Winnow Crowded Fields

Credit Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

Washington voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their primary ballots. Secretary of State Kim Wyman projects turnout of about 40 percent. Among others, the primary will winnow the crowded fields for an open central Washington Congressional seat and a Seattle-area state Senate position. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has details.

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Controversial Commentary
7:06 am
Wed July 30, 2014

NRA Lobbyist Comments Attract Controversy

NRA lobbyist Brian Judy, addressing Congress in 2013.
Credit eyeontheworld9 / YouTube

Supporters of a Washington gun control measure on the November ballot may have just gotten a mid-summer boost. They’re capitalizing on an audio recording that recently surfaced. They say it captures the NRA’s Northwest lobbyist mocking Jewish people who support stricter gun laws. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Tesla Gigafactory
6:43 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Washington Secretly Competed For Tesla ‘Gigafactory’

A Tesla Model S.
Credit Daniel Piraino / Flickr

For the first time, we are learning that Washington competed to become the location for a massive battery factory for Tesla electric cars. State officials confirmed that Thursday even as reports are surfacing that Tesla has broken ground near Reno, Nevada. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Juvenile Solitary Confinement
7:37 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Lawyers Fight To Move Accused 15-Year-Old Killer From Solitary Cell

An example of a solitary confinement cell.
Credit Chris Gray / Flickr

In north Idaho, a 15-year-old boy sits in an isolated jail cell awaiting trial for murder. Eldon Samuel III is accused of shooting to death his father and younger brother in March. Juveniles accused of crimes like this are automatically charged as adults in Idaho. But now, Samuel’s lawyer and the ACLU are trying to get him moved out of solitary confinement at the adult county jail. They say his isolation amounts to “cruel and unusual” punishment. Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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Washington Midterms
6:36 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Nearly $33M So Far In Washington Mid-Term Elections

The House Chamber at the Washington state Capitol in Olympia
Credit Cacophony / Creative Commons

Washington’s August primary is less than a month away. It’s a midterm election year with no statewide offices on the ballot. Even so, already nearly $33 million has been contributed to campaigns. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins takes a look at who’s giving.

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Washington Clemency
7:08 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Long Sentences, Aging Inmates May Strain Washington’s Clemency System

Members of the public raise their hands in support of a commutation for a three-strikes offender at a recent meeting of Washington's Clemency and Pardons Board.
Credit Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In just a few years, Washington will need another 1,000 prison beds. There’s been talk of building a new state lock-up. But that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the Supreme Court has said school funding must be the priority. So what’s the solution? Washington could release some older inmates who are serving long sentences. But lawmakers are wary of a political backlash and the state abolished parole in the 1980s. That leaves clemency as the remaining pressure-relief valve on the prison system. As Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports, that system of mercy may not be up to the task.

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