Joaquin Sapien

Reporter

Photo of Joaquin Sapien

Joaquin Sapien was one of the first reporters hired at ProPublica in its first year of publishing in 2008. Since then, his journalism has explored a broad range of topics, including criminal justice, social services, and the environment. In 2019, he was a co-producer and correspondent for “Right to Fail,” a film for the PBS documentary series Frontline. The film was based on his 2018 examination of a flawed housing program for New Yorkers with mental illness, which appeared in the New York Times. The story immediately prompted a federal judge to order an independent investigation into the program. It won a Deadline Club Award and a Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

In 2015, Sapien wrote about care for troubled children, beginning with a story in the California Sunday Magazine on a group home that descended into chaos. His work helped an abused boy receive a $12 million jury award and led to the closure of another embattled home in Long Beach.

Past areas of focus include New York City Family Court, prosecutorial misconduct, traumatic brain injury, natural gas drilling, and contaminated drywall used to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Sapien’s work has earned awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He was a four-time finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Before joining ProPublica, Sapien was a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.

Watching the Detectives: Will Probe of Cop’s Cases Extend to Prosecutors?

A review of 50 Brooklyn murder prosecutions could free men from prison and ruin the reputation of the former detective who helped make the cases. Some insist the prosecutors who worked alongside the accused detective should not be spared scrutiny.

Objection Overruled: Top Prosecutor Must Testify in Wrongful Conviction Case

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes will be deposed by the lawyer for a man who has accused Hynes of running a prosecutor’s office where misconduct is condoned, even rewarded. Hynes, who has denied the allegation, had sought to avoid answering questions under oath, but a federal judge ruled that he must.

Time Out: Federal Complaint Alleges Rampant Abuse in Texas Truancy Program

Students are handcuffed, and often jailed. Fines can reach into the thousands of dollars. Accused students and their families are never provided with legal counsel. That, according to a complaint seeking federal intervention, is the strange and possibly illegal world of the Dallas County truancy court, where thousands of students are prosecuted for missing school or arriving late.

Rape and Other Sexual Violence Prevalent in Juvenile Justice System

The greatest rates of sexual assaults in the country’s juvenile detention facilities involve the very staff members charged with supervising and counseling the troubled youngsters.

A Prosecutor, a Wrongful Conviction and a Question of Justice

Jabbar Collins spent 16 years in prison for murder before he won his freedom, and with it a chance to take on the man who put him behind bars. Collins has accused Michael Vecchione, a senior Brooklyn prosecutor, of repeated acts of misconduct, and two federal judges indicated they think he may have a case. ProPublica examines Vecchione’s career, the allegations against him, and what strikes many as an inexplicable lack of accountability.

Lasting Damage: A Rogue Prosecutor’s Final Case

Claude Stuart, after a career full of trouble as a prosecutor in Queens, finally went too far when he lied to a judge in an effort to convict a man of murder.

Who Polices Prosecutors Who Abuse Their Authority? Usually Nobody

The innocent can wind up in prison. The guilty can be set free. But New York City prosecutors who withhold evidence, tolerate false testimony or commit other abuses almost never see their careers damaged.

What Researchers Learned About Gun Violence Before Congress Killed Funding

We spoke with the scientist who led the government's research on guns.

How the NRA Undermined Congress' Last Push for Gun Control

We reconstruct how the NRA advanced two measures long on its agenda in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

Home Builders Lobby Weakens Drywall Legislation

A bill heralded by lawmakers as a victory for thousands of homeowners harmed by contaminated drywall was weakened after input from the homebuilding industry.

Mass Shootings Do Little to Change State Gun Laws

We take a look at what's happened legislatively in states where some of the worst shootings in recent U.S. history have occurred to see what effect, if any, those events had on gun laws.

Army Study Finds Troops Suffer Concussions in Training

Brain specialists say Army's training may make soldiers more vulnerable to head injuries on the battlefield.

One Soldier's Progress Against Traumatic Brain Injury

With the help of virtual-reality machines and a bevy of specialists, Sgt. Victor Medina's thinking and speaking rapidly improved. But he's among only a tiny fraction of brain-injured soldiers who get access to the most advanced treatment at military's new state-of-the-art center in Maryland.

EPA Sees Risks to Water, Workers In New York Fracking Rules

In 47 pages of comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency weighs in on New York’s potentially precedent-setting regulations for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Military Still Struggling to Treat Troops With Brain Injuries

Defense Department leaders and lawmakers have taken steps to improve the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries since ProPublica and NPR began a two-year investigation, but progress remains incremental.

Drywall Manufacturer Agrees to Settlement

Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin is the first manufacturer to agree to settle defective drywall cases lodged in federal court. The settlement could pay to repair more than 5,000 homes, plaintiffs’ attorneys say.

Senator Wants Answers on Program to Test Soldiers for Brain Injuries

Sen. Claire McCaskill has requested a briefing from the military on its troubled neurological testing program.

Senate Subcommittee Grills CPSC on Drywall

Lawmakers questioned CPSC and CDC officials about the progress of a years-long federal investigation into contaminated drywall at a Senate hearing.

Congressman Slams Military Brain-Testing Program

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., sought support to fix the military’s cognitive testing program following a ProPublica and NPR report on the issue earlier this week.

Follow ProPublica

Latest Stories from ProPublica