Joseph Shapiro

Joseph Shapiro is a NPR News Investigations correspondent.

In this role, Shapiro takes on long-term reporting projects and covers breaking news stories for NPR's news shows.

Shapiro's major investigative stories include his reports on the failure of colleges and universities to punish for on-campus sexual assaults; the inadequacy of civil rights laws designed to get the elderly and people with disabilities out of nursing homes, and the little-known profits involved in the production of medical products from donated human cadavers.

His reporting has generated wide-spread attention to serious issues here and abroad. His "Child Cases" series, reported with PBS Frontline and ProPublica, found two dozen cases in the U.S. and Canada where parents and caregivers were charged with killing children, but the charges were later reversed or dropped. Since that series, a Texas man who was the focus of one story was released from prison. And in California, a woman, who was the subject of another story, had her sentence commuted.

Shapiro joined NPR in November 2001 and spent eight years covering health, aging, disability and children's and family issues on the Science Desk. He reported on the health issues of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and helped start NPR's 2005 Impact of War series with reporting from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. He covered stories from Hurricane Katrina to the debate over overhauling the nation's health care system.

Before coming to NPR, Shapiro spent 19 years at U.S. News & World Report, as a Senior Writer on social policy and served as the magazine's Rome bureau chief, White House correspondent and congressional reporter.

Among honors for his investigative journalism, Shapiro has received a Peabody Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, Sigma Delta Chi, IRE, Dart and Gracie awards and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Award.

Shapiro is the author of the award-winning NO PITY: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (Random House/Three Rivers Press), which is widely read in disability studies classes.

Shapiro studied long-term care and end-of-life issues as a participant in the yearlong 1997 Kaiser Media Fellowship in Health program. In 1990, he explored the changing world of people with disabilities as an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow.

Shapiro attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Carleton College. He's a native of Washington, D.C., and lives there now with his family.

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NPR News Investigations
4:59 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

National Data Confirm Cases Of Restraint And Seclusion In Public Schools

Carson Luke, 13, was injured when he was restrained at a school in Virginia when he was 10 years old.
Sarah Tilotta/NPR

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 9:52 am

The practice of secluding or restraining children when they get agitated has long been a controversial practice in public schools. Now, new data show that it's more common than previously understood, happening at least 267,000 times in a recent school year.

NPR worked with reporters from the investigative journalism group ProPublica, who compiled data from the U.S. Department of Education to come up with one of the clearest looks at the practice of seclusion and restraint.

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Law
4:32 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Michigan's High Court Limits The Fees Billed To Defendants

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 6:08 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Michigan's top court, today, moved to put limits on what local governments can charge defendants who go through the court system. The court ruled in a case we told you about last month of a man who got billed more than a thousand dollars for his court costs. NPR's Joseph Shapiro, who reported the series of stories we called Guilty And Charged, has this update.

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NPR News Investigations
3:08 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Facing Doubts About Court Fines, Lawmakers Take Questions To Heart

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 6:18 pm

U.S. lawmakers and judges are feeling some urgency to solve the same problem: how to stop sending people to jail simply for failing to pay court fines and fees, often because they're too poor to afford them. Policymakers react to a recent NPR investigation into the issue.

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Guilty And Charged
3:58 pm
Sat May 24, 2014

Measures Aimed At Keeping People Out Of Jail Punish The Poor

Tom Barrett returned to the convenience store where he stole a can of beer. He spent time in jail, not for the crime, but because he couldn't afford the fines and fees that went along with wearing an electronic monitoring device.
Joseph Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 9:06 am

Electronic monitoring devices provide an alternative to sending someone to jail. For a defendant, an ankle bracelet means returning to family and work. For corrections officials, it saves money by reducing overcrowded jails and prisons. But those devices are expensive.

A nationwide survey by NPR found that 49 states — every state except Hawaii, plus the District of Columbia — now allow or require the cost to be passed along to the person ordered to wear one.

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NPR News Investigations
3:39 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Court Fees Drive Many Poor Defendants Underground

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 9:14 am

The use of fines and fees charged to criminal defendants has exploded. An NPR investigation has found people who can't afford those charges can go to jail for not paying. Hundreds of thousands are hiding from police and the courts.

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Guilty And Charged
4:22 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Supreme Court Ruling Not Enough To Prevent Debtors Prisons

After spending three weeks in jail because he couldn't afford his court debt, Papa lost his job at a small steel plant. He has since found a job as a security guard.
Grant Hindsley for NPR

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 9:31 am

  • Listen to the Story: Part 2
  • Listen to the Story: Part 1

Debtors prisons were outlawed in the United States nearly 200 years ago. And more than 30 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear: Judges cannot send people to jail just because they are too poor to pay their court fines.

That decision came in a 1983 case called Bearden v. Georgia, which held that a judge must first consider whether the defendant has the ability to pay but "willfully" refuses.

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NPR News Investigations
3:37 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Big Fees For The Big Easy's Poorest Defendants

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 11:23 am

In the next installment of an NPR investigation, Joseph Shapiro goes to New Orleans to look at the ways poor people are charged for their public defender in court.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Guilty And Charged
5:17 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Unpaid Court Fees Land The Poor In 21st Century Debtors' Prisons

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 10:43 am

Debtors' prisons were outlawed in the United States back before the Civil War. But an NPR state-by-state survey found that people still get sent to jail for unpaid court fines and fees.

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Guilty And Charged
3:45 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

The proliferation of court fees has prompted some states, like New Jersey, to use amnesty programs to encourage the thousands of people who owe fines to surrender in exchange for fee reductions. At the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, makeshift courtrooms allow judges to individually handle each case.
Nicole Beemsterboer/NPR

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 9:02 am

In Augusta, Ga., a judge sentenced Tom Barrett to 12 months after he stole a can of beer worth less than $2.

In Ionia, Mich., 19-year-old Kyle Dewitt caught a fish out of season; then a judge sentenced him to three days in jail.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., Stephen Papa, a homeless Iraq War veteran, spent 22 days in jail, not for what he calls his "embarrassing behavior" after he got drunk with friends and climbed into an abandoned building, but because he had only $25 the day he went to court.

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Education
4:25 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Feds List Schools Under Investigation For Abuse Claims

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 10:38 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

A Supreme Court justice famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Louis Brandeis meant that publicity changes bad behavior, and this appears to be the theory followed by the U.S. Department of Education. For the first time, the department released names of colleges and universities that are currently under investigation for the way they have handled sexual assaults.

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