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.

Pages

The Two-Way
5:26 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Alabama Settlement Could Be Model For Handling Poor Defendants In Ferguson, Mo.

Sharnalle Mitchell (center) in Montgomery in May, after winning an injunction to stop the city from collecting court fines. With her (from left): attorney Alec Karakatsanis, fellow plaintiffs Lorenzo Brown and Tito Williams and attorney Matt Swerdlin.
Courtesy of Alec Karakatsanis

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 8:12 pm

There may be a model for court reform in Ferguson, Mo., in a legal settlement that happened quietly this week in Alabama.

The city of Montgomery agreed to new polices to avoid jailing people who say they are too poor to pay traffic tickets. In that Alabama city, as in Ferguson, there's been tension between poor residents and police over the way people are fined for traffic tickets and other minor violations and then sometimes jailed for not paying.

Read more
Law
7:49 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Ferguson's Plan To Cut Back On Court Fees Could Inspire Change

A line of people wait to speak during a meeting of the Ferguson City Council on Tuesday. The meeting was the first for the council since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a city police officer.
Jeff Roberson AP

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:02 am

Here are just a few of the fees the city court in Ferguson, Mo., can bill you for:

There's a fee to plead guilty. That's $12.

You even pay for your own arrest warrant.

"The sheriff can charge you for the mileage that it costs them to serve a bench warrant," notes Alexes Harris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington.

Each individual fee may seem small, but there are at least a dozen, and they add up. Harris, on her computer, pulled up Ferguson's municipal code.

Read more
Guilty And Charged
6:16 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

In Ferguson, Court Fines And Fees Fuel Anger

People line up to take part in an amnesty program to clear up outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants in August 2013, in Ferguson, Mo. For those living on the economic margins, the consequences of even a minor criminal violation can lead to a spiral of debt, unpaid obligations, unemployment and even arrest.
Jeff Roberson AP

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 7:53 pm

To understand some of the distrust of police that has fueled protests in Ferguson, Mo., consider this: In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.

Read more
Education
6:33 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 10:52 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.

Read more
Law
5:32 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Michigan's High Court Limits The Fees Billed To Defendants

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 7:08 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.

Read more
NPR News Investigations
4:39 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Court Fees Drive Many Poor Defendants Underground

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 10:14 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.

Read more
Guilty And Charged
5:22 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 10:31 am

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.

Read more
NPR News Investigations
4:57 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Big Fees For The Big Easy's Poorest Defendants

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 12:23 pm

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:

Read more
Guilty And Charged
6:17 am
Tue May 20, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 11:43 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.

Read more
Guilty And Charged
4:57 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 10:02 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.

Read more
NPR News Investigations
6:18 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Campus Rape Reports Are Up, And Assaults Aren't The Only Reason

After the University of Michigan increased its efforts to prevent sexual assaults on campus, reports increased by 113 percent.
Erin/Flickr

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 7:04 pm

The number of "forcible rapes" that get reported at four-year colleges increased 49 percent between 2008 and 2012. That's the finding of an analysis by NPR's Investigative Unit of data from the Department of Education.

That increase shows that sexual assault is a persistent and ugly problem on college campuses. But there's also a way to look at the rise in reports and see something positive: It means more students are willing to come forward and report this underreported crime.

Read more
Shots - Health News
7:14 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Shooting Unfairly Links Violence With Mental Illness — Again

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley speaks to reporters April 2 regarding the second shooting in five years on the Fort Hood Army post in Texas.
Drew Anthony Smith Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 9:05 am

With the Army's disclosure that Army Spc. Ivan Lopez was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder before he went on a shooting rampage Wednesday, there were once again questions about whether the Army could have prevented the violence at Fort Hood.

Read more
Shots - Health News
3:28 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Mastermind Of 'Body Stealing' Scheme Dies

In 2008, Michael Mastromarino was sentenced in a New York City courtroom for enterprise corruption, body stealing and reckless endangerment.
Jesse Ward AP

Dr. Michael Mastromarino died Sunday after battling liver and bone cancer. He was 49.

Mastromarino pleaded guilty to "body stealing." In 2008, he was sentenced to up to 58 years in prison.

But he continued to insist that he'd been misunderstood. He spoke to NPR, working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, last year from a prison near Buffalo, N.Y.

Read more
Law
5:17 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Turning Up The Heat On Civil Rights-Era Cold Cases

Originally published on Sat May 18, 2013 2:26 pm

Six years ago, the FBI took on a challenge: To review what it called cold-case killings from the civil rights era. The investigation into 112 cases from the 1950s and 1960s is winding down, and civil rights activists are weighing the FBI's efforts.

The review comes with word this week of the death of a man who'd been named, by a newspaper investigation, as a possible suspect in one notorious case.

The Case

Read more
NPR News Investigations
4:03 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Justice In The Segregated South: A New Look At An Old Killing

When John Queen died in August 1965 in front of the Ice House (the building between the Standard Oil station and The Dollar Store), rules of racial inferiority were so entrenched in Fayette, Miss., that black residents felt they couldn't complain. But just four months later things changed and black residents marched on Dec. 24 as part of their boycott against white-owned businesses.
Jack Thornell AP

Originally published on Sat May 4, 2013 6:41 am

This story contains language that some may find offensive.

In the segregated South in 1965, John Queen was about as insignificant as a man could be. He was black, elderly and paralyzed. His legs had been crushed when as a boy he fell off a roof. For the rest of his life, he pulled himself around with his hands.

In Fayette, Miss., he would shine shoes on Main Street for a few coins. People called him "Crippled Johnny" or "Shoe-Shine Johnny."

Read more
The Two-Way
7:38 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Law Targets Sexual Violence On College Campuses

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 11:30 am

When President Obama signs an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday afternoon, the law will include new requirements for how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault.

Laura Dunn, who's been invited by the White House to attend, plans to be there.

Read more
Remembrances
5:32 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Koop Turned Surgeon General's Office Into Mighty Education Platform

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 1:34 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

C. Everett Koop was the most outspoken and some would argue the most influential of all U.S. surgeon generals. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The correct plural form of the word is surgeons general.] He wore the uniform throughout most of the 1980s, and he turned an office with little power into a mighty platform - to educate Americans about AIDS prevention and the dangers of smoking.

C. Everett Koop died today at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire. He was 96. NPR's Joseph Shapiro looks back on his career.

Read more
Shots - Health News
1:35 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Why A Young Man Died In A Nursing Home, A State Away From His Mom

Zach Sayne at age 5, with his mother Nola.
Courtesy of Nola Sayne

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 4:12 pm

Zach Sayne was 25 when he died earlier this month at the place that had been his home for 15 years — a children's nursing home in Alabama.

But that was too far away, 200 miles too far, for his mother in Georgia. Nola Sayne was trying to bring him back, closer to her home. The story of why she couldn't reveals the bureaucratic traps, underfunding and lack of choices that plague state Medicaid programs.

Read more
Health
3:16 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Dismissed Case Raises Questions On Shaken Baby Diagnosis

Jennie and Kristian Aspelin pose in a pumpkin patch with their children two weeks before three-month-old Johan died.
Courtesy of the Aspelin family

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 3:27 pm

When San Francisco prosecutors dismissed charges against Kristian Aspelin in early December, it became just the latest case to raise questions about how shaken baby syndrome is diagnosed. Aspelin, who was accused of causing the death of his infant son, had one thing in his favor: He had enough money to pay for medical experts who cast doubt on the prosecution's theory.

Read more
Shots - Health Blog
11:22 am
Sun October 7, 2012

Spinal Surgery Company To Give Tissue Proceeds To Charity

The maker of a new product for spine surgeons wants to make a splash by donating proceeds to two charities.
Spinal Elements

When a California company developed a product to be used in spinal fusion surgeries, the firm's president said he knew it faced a new "ethical dilemma," even noting a recent NPR news investigation questioning the high profits some firms were making from donated human tissue.

Read more

Pages