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Joseph Shapiro

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.

What Melissa Hickson says happened to her husband — and what the hospital says — are in conflict.

But this much is for sure: Michael Hickson, a 46-year old quadriplegic who'd contracted COVID-19, died at St. David's South Austin Medical Center in Austin, Texas, on June 11 after the hospital ended treatment for him and moved him from the intensive care unit to hospice care.

When a natural disaster strikes, it's complicated to evacuate and care for some of the people most at risk — the elderly and disabled.

Now — add another complication: a pandemic.

Prisons across the country have placed prisoners on lockdown — they're kept in their cells mostly around-the-clock — as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Now prison reformers are worried that the response has increased the use of a practice they've long fought: solitary confinement.

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People with intellectual disabilities and autism who contract COVID-19 die at higher rates than the rest of the population, according to an analysis by NPR of numbers obtained from two states that collect data. They also contract the virus at a higher rate, according to research looking into group homes across the United States.

The Navy has ordered members of its Military Sealift Command — a group of civilian mariners who supply military vessels around the world — to stay on their ships in an effort to prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus. A "gangway up" order enforcing the lock-down was issued on March 21.

There's one thing that distinguishes the nursing homes in New York that have reported patient deaths from COVID-19. According to an NPR analysis, they are far more likely to be made up of people of color.

NPR looked at 78 nursing homes in New York in which six or more residents have died of COVID-19. In one facility, 55 people have died as of April 20. Ten others report 30 or more deaths.

It's a moment that people with disabilities have long feared: there's a shortage of life-saving equipment, like ventilators, and doctors say they may be forced to decide who lives and who dies.

People with disabilities worry those judgments will reflect a prejudice that their lives hold less value.

State health officials have drafted rationing plans that exclude some people with significant disabilities from ventilators and other treatment.

Updated at 10:10 p.m. ET

One month ago today, President Trump declared a national emergency.

In a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus.

"We've been working very hard on this. We've made tremendous progress," Trump said. "When you compare what we've done to other areas of the world, it's pretty incredible."

But few of the promises made that day have come to pass.

With coronavirus cases continuing to climb and hospitals facing the prospect of having to decide how to allocate limited staff and resources, the Department of Health and Human Services is reminding states and health care providers that civil rights laws still apply in a pandemic.

States are preparing for a situation when there's not enough care to go around by issuing "crisis of care" standards.

But disability groups are worried that those standards will allow rationing decisions that exclude the elderly or people with disabilities.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

People with disabilities are asking the federal government to stop what they say are policies by states and hospitals that will ration care and deny them treatment for the coronavirus. NPR investigative correspondent Joseph Shapiro reports.

Women in prison, when compared with incarcerated men, often receive disproportionately harsh punishments for minor violations of prison rules, according to a report released Wednesday by a federal fact-finding agency.

Amtrak will dump a policy that led to two people who use wheelchairs being told they'd have to pay $25,000 for a train ticket that usually costs just $16, the rail service announced Wednesday.

"After further review, Amtrak has determined to suspend the policy in question," said Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari. "It was never meant to be applied to this situation. And we apologize for the mistake."

He spoke shortly after a group of people with disabilities demonstrated outside an Amtrak station in Illinois, chanting: "We will ride."

Amtrak has reversed course — at least partly — on its plan to charge two wheelchair users $25,000 for a short train ride, after hearing criticism, including from a U.S. senator.

On Friday, NPR reported that two riders, who use power wheelchairs, were told they'd have to pay at least $25,000 for a two-hour train ride from Chicago to the station in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. It's a ticket that usually costs $16.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET on Jan. 20

It costs just $16 to buy a one-way ticket on the Amtrak train from Chicago to Bloomington, Ill., unless you're the two people who use wheelchairs and tried to buy tickets recently. They were told their tickets will cost not $16 — but $25,000.

When Adam Ballard saw what Amtrak wanted to charge, he couldn't believe it.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A one-way ticket on the Amtrak train from Chicago to Bloomington, Ill., costs $16 - unless you're the two people who use wheelchairs who were told their tickets would cost not $16, but $25,000. Yeah. Here's NPR's Joseph Shapiro.

Chuck Coma tried to lie still in his hospital bed. But there was a spasm in his chest, like something inside was fighting to get out.

"It says here you had an injury in 2016, and you've been jerking since then. Are there any triggers?" the technician asked, wrapping a tape measure around Chuck's head and marking it with a red Sharpie.

"No, it just happens."

The warden at the women's prison in Iowa recently instructed her corrections officers to stop giving out so many disciplinary tickets for minor violations of prison rules, like when a woman wears her sweatshirt inside out or rolls up her sleeves.

It's a small thing. But it's also part of a growing movement to reconsider the way women are treated in prison.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Monica Cosby, Tyteanna Williams and Celia Colon talk about the years they spent as inmates at women's prisons in Illinois, their stories often turn to the times they would be disciplined for what seemed like small, even absurd things.

Cosby was playing Scrabble in her cell once when a guard asked what she was doing. She responded sarcastically: "What does it look like I'm doing?" He wrote her up for "contraband" (the Scrabble set) and for "insolence."

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world, and people solving them, through the lens of a single number.

At a graduation ceremony in a hotel ballroom outside Minneapolis, 28 men and women got their certificates — for learning how to raise a bit of hell.

Most graduates of the Partners in Policymaking class are the mothers of young children with developmental disabilities. They've been meeting at this hotel one weekend a month for eight months.

Earlier this year, NPR reported that people with intellectual disabilities are victims of some of the highest rates of sexual assault. NPR found previously undisclosed government numbers showing that they're assaulted at seven times the rate of people without disabilities. Now states, communities and advocates, citing NPR's reporting, are making reforms aimed at improving those statistics.

Editor's note: This report includes descriptions of sexual assault.

Somebody with an intellectual disability by definition has difficulty learning, reasoning or problem-solving.

But many often think deeply about the things that affect them — and the things that isolate them, like sexual assault.

Editor's note: This report includes graphic and disturbing descriptions of sexual assault.

There's a trial scheduled in March at the marble courthouse in Newark, N.J., of a man charged with kidnapping and raping a young woman with an intellectual disability.

That trial is likely to be a quiet one, with little attention, nothing like the feverish national press coverage 25 years ago of the trial — in that same courthouse — in another case of sexual assault of another young woman with an intellectual disability.

Editor's note: This report includes graphic and disturbing descriptions of sexual assault.

The victim couldn't tell anyone what happened that night. She was a woman with an intellectual disability who doesn't speak words. So the alleged rape was discovered, according to the police report, only by accident — when a staff worker said she walked into the woman's room and saw her boss with his pants down.

Editor's note: This report includes graphic and disturbing descriptions of sexual assault.

In the sex education class for adults with intellectual disabilities, the material is not watered down. The dozen women and men in a large room full of windows and light in Casco, Maine, take on complex issues, such as how to break up or how you know you're in an abusive relationship. And the most difficult of those issues is sexual assault.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Editor's note: This report includes graphic and disturbing descriptions of assault.

Pauline wants to tell her story — about that night in the basement, about the boys and about the abuse she wanted to stop.

But she's nervous. "Take a deep breath," she says out loud to herself. She takes a deep and audible breath. And then she tells the story of what happened on the night that turned her life upside down.

"The two boys took advantage of me," she begins. "I didn't like it at all."

A new federal report harshly criticizes the way the Bureau of Prisons treats inmates with mental illness, singling out treatment at the prison at Lewisburg, Pa.

The report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General says BOP violates its own policies by keeping prisoners with mental illness in solitary confinement for too long and with too little treatment.

Disability rights activist Nick Dupree died last weekend. Tomorrow would have been his 35th birthday.

Back in 2003, he told NPR: "I want a life. I just want a life. Like anyone else. Just like your life. Or anyone else's life."

He got that life.

On Feb. 3, 2011, corrections officers at the Lewisburg federal penitentiary in central Pennsylvania arrived outside Sebastian Richardson's cell door. With them was a man looking agitated, rocking back and forth and staring down at Richardson, who at 4 feet, 11 inches was nicknamed "Bam Bam."

The man, officers told Richardson, was his new cellmate. The two would spend nearly 24 hours a day celled together in a concrete room smaller than a parking space.

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