NPR: 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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6:33pm

Wed June 18, 2014
NPR News Investigations

National Data Confirm Cases Of Restraint And Seclusion In Public Schools

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 10:52 am

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

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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5:32pm

Wed June 18, 2014
Law

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.

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4:39pm

Wed May 21, 2014
NPR News Investigations

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.

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5:22am

Wed May 21, 2014
Guilty And Charged

Supreme Court Ruling Not Enough To Prevent Debtors Prisons

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 10:31 am

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
  • 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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4:57pm

Tue May 20, 2014
NPR News Investigations

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:

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6:17am

Tue May 20, 2014
Guilty And Charged

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.

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4:58pm

Mon May 19, 2014
Guilty And Charged

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 10:02 am

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

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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6:18pm

Wed April 30, 2014
NPR News Investigations

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

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

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

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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7:14pm

Thu April 3, 2014
Shots - Health News

Shooting Unfairly Links Violence With Mental Illness — Again

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

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

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.

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3:28pm

Wed July 10, 2013
Shots - Health News

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.

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5:17am

Sat May 18, 2013
Law

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

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4:03pm

Fri May 3, 2013
NPR News Investigations

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

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

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

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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7:38pm

Wed March 6, 2013
The Two-Way

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.

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5:32pm

Mon February 25, 2013
Remembrances

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.

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1:35pm

Wed January 16, 2013
Shots - Health News

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

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

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

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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3:16pm

Fri December 21, 2012
NPR News Investigations

Dismissed Case Raises Questions On Shaken Baby Diagnosis

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

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

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.

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11:22am

Sun October 7, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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.

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3:36am

Tue October 2, 2012
The Two-Way

Brain-Damaged Man Wins New Trial In Two-Decades-Old Killing

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 1:08 pm

Richard Lapointe confessed in 1989 that he stabbed, raped and killed his wife's 88-year-old grandmother two years earlier. But in the 23 years since, experts in criminal justice have come to better understand how sometimes people make false confessions — especially someone with brain damage, like Lapointe. On Monday, Connecticut's state Appellate Court ordered a new trial, saying prosecutors wrongly withheld potentially important evidence.

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7:07pm

Thu September 6, 2012
The Two-Way

Pistorius Falls To Britain's Peacock In 100 Meters; American Browne Is Second

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 6:25 am

Bronze medalist Arnu Fourie of South Africa (from left), gold medalist Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, silver medalist Richard Browne of the United States and Oscar Pistorius of South Africa cross the line in the Men's 100m - T44 Final at London's Olympic Stadium.
Jamie McDonald Getty Images

In one of the most closely watched events at the London Paralympics, South African Oscar Pistorius failed in his attempt to win the 100-meter sprint and regain his title as the world's fastest amputee today.

Great Britain's Jonnie Peacock took the lead early and kept it, winning in 10.90 seconds, a Paralympic record. American Richard Browne, 21, of Jackson, Miss., won the silver medal.

Pistorius, the double amputee who ran in the Olympics this year, came in fourth. He finished in 11.17 seconds.

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4:23pm

Wed September 5, 2012
The Two-Way

Oscar Pistorius Seeks Redemption In Race To Be The World's Fastest Amputee

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 6:43 am

In a surprise finish, Brazil's Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira (left) races past South Africa's Oscar Pistorius to win a gold medal in the 200-meter race at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Emilio Morenatti AP

One of the best stories of the London Olympics was Oscar Pistorius running for South Africa on his prosthetic legs. His fight to make the Olympic team brought new attention to sports for people with disabilities. And the attention also brought new competitors — who now are vying with Pistorius to claim the title of world's fastest amputee.

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6:24am

Sun September 2, 2012
Sports

Paralympian's Pursuit Enables Aspiring Athletes

Tatyana McFadden has won medals at the Paralympic Games in 2004 and 2008. At this year's games in London, she's participating in every wheelchair race from the 100-meter sprint to the marathon.
Courtesy of Deborah McFadden

At the Paralympics Games now taking place in London, two American wheelchair racers from Maryland will make history: Tatyana McFadden and her sister Hannah will be the first sisters ever to compete against each other at these world championships for athletes with disabilities.

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5:22pm

Tue August 28, 2012
Sports

Debate Pits Strasburg's Health Against Wins

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 8:52 pm

Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park last week.
Patrick McDermott Getty Images

One of the biggest debates in Washington, D.C., these days has nothing to do with taxes, health care or the economy. It's about baseball and whether the Washington Nationals should end the season of their young pitching star, Stephen Strasburg, just as the team may be headed for the playoffs.

Two years ago, Strasburg's promising career was threatened when he tore a ligament in his pitching arm. He needed surgery and couldn't pitch for a year.

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3:33am

Thu July 19, 2012
Human Tissue Donation

The Seamy Side Of The Human Tissue Business

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 8:01 am

Michael Mastromarino (center) appeared in a New York City courtroom for sentencing on charges of corruption, body stealing and reckless endangerment, as the mastermind behind a scheme to loot hundreds of corpses and sell bone and tissue for transplants.
Jesse Ward AP

Part 4 in a four-part series

The human tissue industry has created medical advances for millions of Americans. Tissue taken from cadavers is turned into medical products for the living. A tendon can be used to repair a torn ACL. Veins are used in heart bypass operations. Bone can be turned into plates and screws. They look like something you'd find in a hardware store, but these get used to mend a broken leg. It's a $1 billion-a-year industry that attracts the altruistic, but sometimes the greedy.

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2:43pm

Wed July 18, 2012
Human Tissue Donation

Am I A Tissue Donor, Too?

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:20 pm

Organ and tissue donation forms vary from state to state. Some are very general, while others allow people to choose or restrict what they want to donate.
iStockphoto.com

Part 3 in a four-part series

Maybe you've agreed to be an organ donor. There might be something on your driver's license — a red heart, a pink dot or the word "Donor" — to show it. That also means you've very likely agreed — even if you don't realize it — to donate more than just your organs.

I know that I'm an organ donor. I signed up years ago, when I renewed my driver's license. But I had no idea that I'd also signed up to donate my tissue. That is, until Laura Siminoff, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's medical school, explained it to me.

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4:03am

Wed July 18, 2012
Human Tissue Donation

Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:16 pm

Unlike organs, tissue doesn't need to be transplanted immediately. Storage facilities like Tissue Banks International in San Rafael, Calif., process and store donated tissue for later use in medical products or as transplants.
Noah Berger AP

Part 2 of a four-part series

Two winters ago, Lynnette Bellin tore her knee while skiing with her 5-year-old daughter.

"I felt the trademark pop ... and instantly knew I had injured my knee," she says.

But within a year, she was back to her athletic life.

"Recently in one week, I skied, ran, kayaked, standup paddle-boarded, swam and hiked. At the end of that week, I looked back in awe from where I have come from," she says.

Bellin healed quickly after receiving a tendon from a cadaver, which helped to repair her torn ACL.

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12:48pm

Tue July 17, 2012
NPR News Investigations

Calculating The Value Of Human Tissue Donation

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:11 pm

Chris Truitt holds a photo of his daughter, Alyssa, who died when she was 2, at his home in De Forest Wis. After donating her organs and tissues, he decided on a career change that made him rethink tissue donation.
Narayan Mahon for NPR

Part 1 of a four-part series

The story of how Chris Truitt went from being a tissue industry insider to an industry skeptic starts with a family tragedy.

In 1999, his 2-year-old daughter, Alyssa, died of a sudden health complication. Truitt and his wife, Holly, donated their daughter's organs and tissue, which saved the life of another young girl, Kaylin Arrowood.

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3:01pm

Wed July 4, 2012
Sports

Baseball's Teen Phenom Steals Home, And Hearts

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 4:03 pm

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper walks out of the clubhouse before an interleague baseball game in Baltimore.
Patrick Semansky AP

Bryce Harper was 16 when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, pictured swinging a bat in the desert and declared "Baseball's Chosen One."

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11:13am

Wed June 13, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Disabled Woman Dies While Awaiting Second Chance At Kidney Transplant

Misty Cargill and her boyfriend, Mike Bishop, in 2006.
Duncan Group Homes

At Misty Cargill's funeral, the minister called her an advocate for other people with intellectual disabilities. She was — although a reluctant one.

Cargill became an advocate when NPR did a story about her fight to get a life-saving kidney transplant. Misty, 30, died in her sleep on Saturday. She was on a list to get that transplant when she died.

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4:13pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Katie Beckett Defied The Odds, Helped Other Disabled Kids Live Longer

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:46 am

Katie Beckett fits herself with a vibrating vest that helps clear mucous from her lungs. A nurse comes over to her apartment in Cedar Rapids to help her do this twice a day. On the wall to the right are pictures of Katie as a child with Ronald Reagan. This story starts twenty-nine years ago with an angry President Ronald Reagan. <> We just recently received word of a little girl who has spent most of her life in a hospital. <> The little girl in the hospital was three-year-old Katie Beckett. Because of a brain infection, she needed to be hooked to a ventilator at night to breathe. Her parents wanted her home. Her doctors said she'd be better off at home. And it'd be cheaper, too: Just one-sixth the cost.
John Poole NPR

A few years ago, I asked a 13-year-old girl who was receiving care for cystic fibrosis on a Medicaid program known as the "Katie Beckett waiver" if she knew who Katie Beckett was. "Probably some kind of doctor," the girl said.

It was a logical guess. But Beckett was another child with a significant disability, and she changed health care policy for hundreds of thousands of other children with complex medical needs. On Friday, Beckett, at age 34, died in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, of complications from her disability.

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4:03pm

Tue April 17, 2012
The Two-Way

Prosecutors Knew Of Forensics Flaws For Years, 'The Post' Reports

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 6:27 pm

For years, the U.S. Department of Justice has known that flawed forensic work by FBI experts may have led to the convictions of innocent people, but prosecutors rarely told defendants or their attorneys, according to an investigative report in The Washington Post.

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