Joseph Shapiro is a NPR News Investigations correspondent.
Shapiro's major investigative stories include his reports on the way rising court fines and fees create an unequal system of justice for the poor and the rise of "modern day debtors' prisons," the failure of colleges and universities to punish for on-campus sexual assaults, the epidemic of sexual assault of people with intellectual disabilities, the problems with solitary confinement, 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 "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 an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, George Foster Peabody Award, George Polk Award, Robert F. Kennedy Award, Edward R. Murrow Award, Sigma Delta Chi, IRE, Dart, Ruderman, and Gracie awards, and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Award.
Shapiro is the author of the award-winning book 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, DC, and lives there now with his family.
For courts to end a parent's rights to their child, there has to be a serious reason. But NPR found laws that say it's OK to take kids away from their parents if they fail to pay certain debts.
Loss of parental rights can be the ultimate punishment from a court. Unpaid debts for foster care can delay the reunion. Some parents are still getting bills even though the feds told states to stop.
Lois Curtis, the Georgia artist with an intellectual disability who brought a landmark civil rights lawsuit, has died at the age of 55. (Story first aired on Weekend Edition Saturday on Nov. 5, 2022.)
Following an NPR investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance to state and county officials that lets them stop charging parents whose children are placed in foster care.
NPR's Investigative Unit teamed up with The Marshall Project to look at a penitentiary in Thomson, Ill., that is one of the country's most violent and dangerous federal prisons.
Federal prisoners said to be the most dangerous are sent to a special unit at an Illinois penitentiary. NPR and The Marshall Project have uncovered violence, abuse and a string of inmate deaths there.
New York City officials announced the city will no longer take all Social Security checks from children to pay for foster care. Last year NPR and The Marshall Project investigated the common practice.
In every state, governments charge parents for the cost of foster care when children are taken away. When that happens, NPR found, poor parents can't make ends meet, so families are kept apart longer.
Congress told the Transportation Security Administration and airlines in 2018 to improve air travel for people with disabilities. But TSA data and stories from flyers suggest little has improved.
Los Angeles County plans to ensure foster youth who get Social Security can use the money later, going against the common practice of child welfare agencies nationwide to use benefits to pay for care.