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
3:56 am
Fri June 12, 2015

Coming Home Straight From Solitary Damages Inmates And Their Families

Garcia hugs her son, Mark, on the day he was released from solitary confinement in July 2014.
Courtesy of Sara Garcia

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 1:21 pm

The thing Sara Garcia remembers from the day her son, Mark, got out of prison was the hug — the very, very awkward hug. He had just turned 21 and for the past two and a half years, he'd been in solitary confinement.

"He's not used to anyone touching him," Garcia says. "So he's not used to hugs. And I mean we grabbed him. I mean, we hugged him. We held him. I mean, it was just surreal to just know I can finally give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek."

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Code Switch
4:38 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Jail Time For Unpaid Court Fines And Fees Can Create Cycle Of Poverty

Edward Brown, who was jailed for not paying fines he couldn't afford, is among 16 plaintiffs in two lawsuits filed against the cities of Ferguson and Jennings, Mo.
Joseph Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 5:27 pm

On a night last week when the temperature dropped to 17 degrees, Edward Brown, who's 62 and homeless, slept at the bus stop in front of the Jennings, Mo., city hall in St. Louis County.

"It was cold, very cold," he says. "It's so cold I can't really move so I kept playing with my feet — rubbing 'em, twisting 'em, trying to keep warm."

Brown's troubles started when he tried to fight the city of Jennings, and his story shows how court fines and fees can grow, turning an impoverished person's life upside down.

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The Two-Way
4:51 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Study Finds Court Fees Also Punish The Families Of Those Who Owe

David Silva, who owed about $30,000 in court fines and fees, says that a lot of his financial burden fell on his family and friends.
Courtesy of Emily Dalton

Originally published on Thu January 29, 2015 6:57 pm

A new report on the growth of court fines and fees that are charged to often-impoverished offenders is focusing on another group that pays: their families.

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The Two-Way
4:08 pm
Fri January 9, 2015

Massachusetts Will Limit Practice Of Restraint And Seclusion In Schools

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 7:15 pm

Massachusetts is one of a growing number of states that are putting new restrictions on the practice of restraining and secluding public school students.

The techniques — which have been blamed for harming students and in at least 20 deaths — were used more than 267,000 times in a recent school year, according to an analysis last year of federal data by NPR and ProPublica.

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Guilty And Charged
2:31 am
Mon January 5, 2015

How Driver's License Suspensions Unfairly Target The Poor

McArthur Edwards' driver's license was suspended for two years because he was unable to pay a $64 fine. He's using this bus stop to commute.
Joseph Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 2:07 pm

This is the second of two stories. Read the first story here.

If you get caught drinking and driving in Wisconsin, and it's your first offense, you lose your license for nine months. For a hit-and-run, the punishment is suspension for one year.

But if you don't pay a ticket for a minor driving offense, such as driving with a broken tail light, you can lose your license for two years.

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Guilty And Charged
5:19 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

Can't Pay Your Fines? Your License Could Be Taken

Desiree Seats, 23, lost her license for two years before she even got it because of an unpaid fine. Without a license, she couldn't find the jobs she needed to start earning money.
Joseph Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 5:51 pm

Drive drunk, drive recklessly, and the state can suspend your driver's license. But many police and motor vehicle administrators worry about a recent trend: A large number of suspensions are for reasons that have nothing to do with unsafe driving.

These reasons include unpaid traffic tickets, falling behind on child support, getting caught with drugs, bouncing checks; or minor juvenile offenses like missing school, using false identification to buy alcohol, or shoplifting.

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The Two-Way
4:26 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 7:12 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.

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NPR Story
11:30 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Campus Sexual Assault Law Now Includes Language On Same-Sex Violence

John Kelly speaks during a campus rally about sexual violence at Tufts University on May 1.
Courtesy of Leah Mushkin-Pierret

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 2:34 pm

Schools often struggle to investigate cases of sexual assault, and even more so when they occur between people of the same gender.

But a new law aimed at college campuses — which takes effect today — expands the definition of sexual violence to include dating violence and stalking and to clarify that same-sex assaults are covered, too.

John Kelly, a senior at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., helped make those new rules.

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Law
7:01 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 10:02 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.

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Guilty And Charged
5:20 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 6:53 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.

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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
3:39 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 Thu January 8, 2015 9:43 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.

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NPR News Investigations
4:09 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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