Joseph Shapiro Joseph Shapiro is a NPR News Investigations correspondent.
Joe Shapiro
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Joseph Shapiro

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Joe Shapiro
Wanyu Zhang/NPR

Joseph Shapiro

Correspondent, NPR Investigations

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 and the Pulitzer Prize.

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.

Story Archive

Thursday

Alexis Ratcliff attends her 18th birthday party at the hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. She is a quadriplegic who uses a ventilator and has lived at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist since she was 13. Susan Ratcliff hide caption

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Susan Ratcliff

A hospital is suing to move a quadriplegic 18-year-old to a nursing home. She says no

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Wednesday

A hospital is suing a quadriplegic 18-year-old to make her go to a nursing home

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Wednesday

A warden tried to fix an abusive federal prison. He faced death threats

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More than a dozen prisoners at Thomson prison in Illinois claimed in a letter that guards were bribing them to attack the warden. The Marshall Project redacted some names in these documents to protect their identity. Aaron Marin for The Marshall Project hide caption

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Aaron Marin for The Marshall Project

A warden tried to fix an abusive federal prison. He faced death threats

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Tuesday

Justin Kasieta, who is 22 now, was just 13 when his father died and he was thrust into a role looking after his four younger siblings. In college, he interned in the state legislature and the U.S. Congress. Benjamin Levitt hide caption

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Benjamin Levitt

These kids used to get the bill for their own foster care. Now that's changing

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Thursday

The federal prison complex in Thomson, Ill. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP hide caption

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Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

New accounts of abuse at federal prison prompt renewed calls for investigation

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Thursday

For some with disabilities, the pandemic raised fears that they couldn't get medical care they need. Now, groups are saying California's assisted suicide law also devalues their lives, and they have filed a lawsuit. Fanatic Studio / Gary Waters via Getty Images hide caption

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Fanatic Studio / Gary Waters via Getty Images

Disability groups claim California's assisted suicide law discriminates against them

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Disability groups say California's assisted suicide law discriminates against them

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Saturday

Judy Heumann was a major American civil rights activist who remained little-known until a flurry of attention in the last three years of her life. Joseph Shapiro/NPR hide caption

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Joseph Shapiro/NPR

Activist Judy Heumann led a reimagining of what it means to be disabled

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Thursday

Federal Bureau of Prisons is closing its deadliest unit over violence, abuse reports

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Wednesday

A penitentiary unit will shut down after deaths, exposed by NPR and Marshall Project

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Tuesday

A guard tower and prison yard at the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., in 2009. There have been eight deaths at Thomson since 2019, making the facility one of the deadliest federal prisons in the country. David Greedy/Getty Images hide caption

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David Greedy/Getty Images

Thursday

"No one understands it," says Sylvia Cunningham of how she and her husband, Brandon, holding Braxton, 2, got three of their children returned from foster care, including daughter Jordan, 17 (at left), but a court allowed one son to be placed for adoption because the Cunninghams had failed to pay part of the bill for foster care. Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR hide caption

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Phyllis B. Dooney for NPR

In some states, an unpaid foster care bill could mean parents lose their kids forever

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Tuesday

Laws allow kids to be taken away from their parents if they fail to pay debts

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A closer look at the practice of billing parents for their child's foster care

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Monday

A woman who won a landmark civil rights case for people with disabilities has died

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Saturday

Lois Curtis was the plaintiff in a civil rights case that gave people with disabilities and older people the right to live outside of institutions and in their own homes. Curtis died Thursday of cancer. John Poole/NPR hide caption

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John Poole/NPR

Lois Curtis, who won a landmark civil rights case for people with disabilities, died

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Friday

"This will help a lot of single parents out there," Daisy Hohman, a Minnesota mother whose tax refunds were garnished after her three children were placed in foster care, says of the change in federal guidance. Meg Anderson/NPR hide caption

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Meg Anderson/NPR

The federal government will allow states to stop charging families for foster care

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Thursday

A guard tower and prison yard at the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., in 2009. Five men have been killed at Thomson since 2019, making the facility one of the deadliest federal prisons in the country. David Greedy/Getty Images hide caption

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David Greedy/Getty Images

Tuesday

The newest federal prison has become one of the deadliest

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Bobby Everson and a letter he wrote to his family while he was incarcerated in the Special Management Unit at the new U.S. penitentiary in Thomson, Ill. Aaron Marin for NPR hide caption

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Aaron Marin for NPR

How the newest federal prison became one of the deadliest

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Wednesday

New York City officials announced the city will no longer take Social Security checks from children to pay for foster care. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images hide caption

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Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

New York City will stop collecting Social Security money from children in foster care

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Monday

Daisy Hohman was separated from her three children for 20 months when they were placed in foster care. When Hohman was reunited with her children, she received a bill of nearly $20,000 for foster care from her Minnesota county. Joseph Shapiro/NPR hide caption

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Joseph Shapiro/NPR

States send kids to foster care and their parents the bill — often one too big to pay

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Tuesday

A man using a wheelchair hands his ID to an officer at a security screening checkpoint at Orlando International Airport in 2020. Paul Henness/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

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Paul Henness/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Despite calls to improve, air travel is still a nightmare for many with disabilities

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