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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Code Switch
5:27 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

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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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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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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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
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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NPR News Investigations
5:18 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 6:04 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.

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NPR News Investigations
3:03 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 5:41 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."

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

Law Targets Sexual Violence On College Campuses

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 10:30 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.

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Shots - Health News
12:35 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 3:12 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.

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