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. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C-SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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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.

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.

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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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 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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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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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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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’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.

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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