Criminal Justice

Series

Unchecked Power

The Extraordinary Power of Alabama Sheriffs

Lawless

Sexual Violence in Alaska

Locked Down

An Investigation of Mississippi’s Prisons

Overcorrection

Crisis in California Jails

Blood Will Tell

Investigating a Forensic Science

Accused in Elkhart

Justice in an Indiana County

A Sick System

Repeat Attacks After Pleading Insanity

Stuck Kids

Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals

Police Accountability in Chicago

Monitoring the Chicago Police Department

Ignoring Innocence

The Wrongfully Convicted Forced Into Plea Deals

Busted

Examining Chemical Field Tests

Nuisance Abatement

The NYPD’s Aggressive Enforcement of a Little-known Law

Out of Order

When Prosecutors Cross the Line

Post Mortem

Death Investigation in America

Law & Disorder

After Katrina, New Orleans Police Under Scrutiny

Stories

Some of the Country’s Worst Prisons Have Escaped Justice Department Action

Prisons in Alabama are so bad, the Department of Justice said they violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. We found prisons in Mississippi that may be even worse.

Inside The Prison Where Inmates Set Each Other On Fire and Gangs Have More Power Than Guards

At South Mississippi Correctional Institution, inmates have been on perpetual lockdown for seven months and gangs enforce rules. With frequent beatings, burnings and escapes, the prison has become a violent tinderbox.

A Year After an Inmate Was Choked to Death in Jail, a Murder Charge but Few Details

Lorenzo Herrera, 19, was found dead in a Fresno County Jail cell in March 2018. A man has been charged, but detectives say they’re still trying to determine if there are additional suspects.

The FBI Told Congress Domestic Terror Investigations Led to 90 Recent Arrests. It Wouldn’t Show Us Records of Even One.

Four days after asking for information on the FBI’s claims of 90 domestic terrorism arrests, we are still waiting. And, frankly, it got kind of weird.

We Found Photos of Ole Miss Students Posing With Guns in Front of a Shot-Up Emmett Till Memorial. Now They Face a Possible Civil Rights Investigation.

Three students were suspended from their fraternity house, Kappa Alpha, after we shared an Instagram photo one of the men posted that was taken in front of a sign commemorating the murder of the 14-year-old black youth in 1955.

Cops in One Village Have Been Convicted of 70 Crimes. Here’s What They Had to Say About It.

The seven officers in Stebbins, Alaska, explain their criminal records and what it’s like to serve as a police officer there.

The Questionable Conviction, and Re-Conviction, of Ricky Joyner

Juries convicted Ricky Joyner twice. Once in 1994 and again in 1998, after he won his first appeal. Prosecutors called the case cut and dried. But we looked through transcripts, reports, video and more. Should Joyner’s conviction stand?

The Village Where Every Cop Has Been Convicted of Domestic Violence

Dozens of convicted criminals have been hired as cops in Alaska communities. Often, they are the only applicants. In Stebbins, every cop has a criminal record, including the chief.

Deadly Delays in Jail Construction Cost Lives and Dollars Across California

Sixty-five jail construction projects, totaling $2.1 billion, were awarded funds since realignment. Only 11 have opened. Meanwhile, dangerous jails have become more deadly.

Digital Jail: How Electronic Monitoring Drives Defendants Into Debt

Ankle bracelets are promoted as a humane alternative to jail. But private companies charge defendants hundreds of dollars a month to wear the surveillance devices. If people can’t pay, they may end up behind bars.

“Dire” Law Enforcement Crisis in Rural Alaska Prompts Emergency Declaration, New Federal Funding

The announcement comes a month after U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr visited the state to hear concerns about a lack of police in rural communities. The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica reported that one in three Alaska communities lacks local law enforcement.

The Sheriff Lost Reelection. Then the Spending Spree Began.

Sheriff Blake Turman says that after he beat then-Sheriff Dennis Meeks at the polls, he found that thousands of dollars worth of military equipment was missing and public funds were wasted. Meeks’ response: “He’s full of shit.”

There Has Been an Explosion of Homicides in California’s County Jails. Here’s Why.

Some California county jails saw their rate of inmate-on-inmate homicides triple or quadruple, and statewide the number rose 46% after 2011 prison reforms shifted responsibility from state prisons to county lockups. As sheriffs and jail staffs strain, some inmate crimes go undetected for hours.

Wasted Funds, Destroyed Property: How Sheriffs Undermined Their Successors After Losing Reelection

Alabama sheriffs who lost reelection in 2018 personally pocketed funds and deleted public records, an investigation by AL.com and ProPublica found. Holes were drilled through government-issued smartphones and leftover rice was poured down the drain, among other things. It’s a longstanding tradition that sheriffs aren’t typically held accountable for.

How Nine Sheriffs Who Lost Reelection Made Life Harder for Their Successors

Of 10 sheriffs who lost their reelection campaigns last year in Alabama, nine face accusations of impeding their successors. Here’s a rundown of those accusations and how (or if) they responded to them.

“No More Silence”: Her Kidnapping, Sexual Assault and Murder Stunned a Town, and Started a Movement

The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica will hold an event in Kotzebue, site of 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr’s killing, to explore sexual violence in Alaska.

A Lawsuit Over Ferguson’s “Debtors Prison” Drags On

The federal class-action claims thousands of people in Missouri were jailed because they couldn’t pay off fines. Four years after the suit was filed, the plaintiffs are still waiting, and wondering if the deck is stacked against them.

“Enough Is Enough”: Native Leaders Ask William Barr to Help Fix Alaska’s Law Enforcement Crisis

At a gathering in Anchorage, the U.S. attorney general said he would work to provide greater security in rural areas.

Cruel and Unusual: A Guide to California’s Broken Prisons and the Fight to Fix Them

A condensed timeline featuring Pumping Iron, “realignment” and other attempts at prison reform.

Lawless

At least one in three Alaska villages has no local law enforcement. Sexual abuse runs rampant, public safety resources are scarce, and Governor Mike Dunleavy wants to cut the budget.

Why We’re Investigating Sexual Violence in Alaska

Something has changed in the way Alaskans talk about sexual assault. A yearlong partnership between the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica aims to highlight the stories of violence and survival in the final frontier.

How We Tallied Alaska Villages Without Local Law Enforcement

We asked more than 500 organizations representing 195 communities if they employ a police officer of any kind. Of that number, 70 communities reported having no police at some point in 2019.

Have You Experienced Sexual Violence in Alaska? We’d Like To Hear Your Story.

The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica have teamed up to listen. Do you work with victims, in government or law enforcement? We need to hear from you, too.

Trump Hailed This State’s Prison Reforms as a National Model — but the Numbers Reflect a Grim Reality

When Mississippi lawmakers passed prison reform legislation in 2014, they pledged to devote some of the savings to drug rehabilitation, reentry programs and prison alternatives. That hasn’t happened.

Years Ago, I Investigated Mississippi’s Prisons. Here’s Why I’m Doing It Again.

What began as a call from an inmate turned into a yearslong effort to chronicle corruption, gangs, violence and maltreatment inside Mississippi prisons.

What’s Really Going On Inside Mississippi’s Prisons? We Need Your Help to Find Out.

ProPublica and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting are spending this year reporting on what’s happening behind the walls of the state’s prisons.

Last Rights: Making Sense of the Supreme Court’s Series of Death Penalty Rulings

Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, give us some context and insight into the recent dust-ups over the death penalty and the case of Domineque Ray, who was executed on Feb. 7.

California Tried to Fix Its Prisons. Now County Jails Are More Deadly.

In a 48-hour stretch during January 2018, three men were booked into the Fresno County Jail. One was beaten into a coma. Two died soon afterward. Their cases kicked off a nightmarish year in a local jail where problems trace back to California’s sweeping 2011 prison downsizing and criminal justice reforms.

Chicago’s Inspector General Finds the City’s Gang Database Is Riddled With Errors

The database has been accessed more than 1 million times, including some 32,000 times by immigration officials. Police said they will fix the database but not erase it.

Criminal Justice Legislation Will Force New York Prosecutors to Disclose More Evidence, Sooner

Following years of scandal over wrongful convictions, the state legislature has passed reform measures that could help stop them.

Joe Bryan Denied Parole for Seventh Time

Though a forensic expert who testified against Bryan has admitted his conclusions were wrong, Bryan will remain behind bars.

Two Indiana Police Officers Face Federal Charges in Videotaped Beating of Handcuffed Man

The charges come after ProPublica and the South Bend Tribune exposed details of the abuse and published the video. “The alleged actions by these individuals went against everything in the oath they took to serve and protect,” the FBI said.

Head of Rhode Island’s 911 System Is Removed From Post

The move came after The Public’s Radio sought verification of Gregory M. Scungio’s Red Cross certifications, and state police learned that he had been training call takers in CPR without proper certification.

Cook County Takes Steps to Erase Its Regional Gang Database

Commissioners are set to pass a law banning the database and requiring it to be destroyed.

What Do You Know About County Jails in California? Talk to Us.

ProPublica and The Sacramento Bee are spending the year reporting on resources, safety and crowding in California county jails.

Chicago Public Schools Monitored Social Media for Signs of Violence, Gang Membership

School officials say the monitoring was about keeping students safe, not punishing them. But critics say it expanded the role of police in schools and increased surveillance of children.

Domineque Ray Is Executed in Alabama After Supreme Court Bid Fails

Ray, convicted of three murders 20 years ago, had lost a variety of appeals alleging prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate counsel. On Thursday night, his request to have an imam in the execution chamber was also denied.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office Says Its Gang Database Is on Lockdown, but Questions Remain

Many welcomed the announcement that the sheriff took the database offline. But the office has resisted calls to destroy it immediately or publicly explain other details of its plans.

Detective in Elkhart, Indiana, Wrongful Conviction Case Dies in Apparent Suicide

Steve Rezutko, the former Elkhart police detective, was central in an investigation that led to a high-profile pair of wrongful convictions.

In Elkhart, Indiana, Another Conviction Gets Tossed. The Star Witness Was Hypnotized, a Fact the Prosecutor Concealed.

The prosecutor who failed to disclose the use of hypnosis is now a judge. He knew the hypnotist from the Kiwanis Club.

Domineque Ray Is Set to Be Executed Thursday. Did He Ever Really Have a Chance at Being Spared?

The U.S. Supreme Court has said juries must consider a defendant’s life, education and mental health before voting for execution. Lawyers for an Alabama man say that never happened in 1999, and now it’s too late.

Long-Lost Records Surface in Wrongful Conviction Case, Detailing Lead Detective’s Fondling of Informants

The reasons for the Elkhart, Indiana, detective’s forced resignation have been a mystery for years. This month, the records were finally turned over. An attorney wants the city punished for the delay.

Austin Police Department Orders Deeper Investigation After Audit Finds It Misclassified Cleared Rape Cases

The APD will ask a third party to examine how it handles rape investigations. The police chief also announced he had ordered other changes, including the addition of another supervisor to the sex crimes unit and new policies for clearing crimes.

The FBI Says Its Photo Analysis Is Scientific Evidence. Scientists Disagree.

The bureau’s image unit has linked defendants to crime photographs for decades using unproven techniques and baseless statistics. Studies have begun to raise doubts about the unit’s methods.

Audit Finds Austin, Texas, Improperly Cleared Rapes

A review prompted by an investigation by Newsy, Reveal and ProPublica shows that the Police Department misclassified cases in a way that made its rate of solving them appear higher.

6 Young Men, Given Adult Sentences for “Minor” Infractions, Are Freed in Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner commuted the sentences of the men, whose cases were documented in a ProPublica Illinois investigation last year, less than three weeks before leaving office.

When the Calendar Requires the Release of Insanity Defendants in Oregon, Harm Often Follows

Those freed without ongoing supervision and care because of a state time limit commit crimes at twice the rate as a smaller group freed because the Psychiatric Security Review Board specifically concluded they would not be a danger if on their own, according to a Malheur Enterprise and ProPublica analysis.

Bloodstain Analysis Convinced a Jury She Stabbed Her 10-Year-Old Son. Now, Even Freedom Can’t Give Her Back Her Life.

Julie Rea was convicted of killing her son largely on the testimony of bloodstain-pattern analysts. She was later acquitted and exonerated, joining a growing community of Americans wrongly convicted with bad science.

The Laquan McDonald Shooting Keeps Exposing Critical Flaws in Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act

After Chicago officials denied records requests from the police shooting, the attorney general’s office did little to push the city to make documents public.

Austin Closes A High Number Of Its Rape Cases Without Arrests. The State’s Investigating Why.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the issue was “worthy of immediate attention” in the wake of an investigation by Newsy, Reveal and ProPublica.

Joe Bryan in His Own Words: On Being Convicted With Expert Testimony That Turned Out to Be Wrong

In a moving interview, Bryan, who has spent 31 years in a Texas prison for the 1985 murder of his wife, talks about his life behind bars and trying keep hope alive.

How a Dubious Forensic Science Spread Like a Virus

From his basement in upstate New York, Herbert MacDonell launched modern bloodstain-pattern analysis, persuading judge after judge of its reliability. Then he trained hundreds of others. But what if they’re getting it wrong?

Elkhart’s Acting Police Chief Has Previously Been Demoted, Reprimanded and Suspended

Ed Windbigler was forced out as police chief this week. The interim head, Todd Thayer, was demoted in 2013 for saying an officer who opened fire could now check that off his “bucket list,” according to disciplinary records.

Stung by Controversies, Police Chief Resigns in Elkhart, Indiana

Ed Windbigler’s resignation as chief follows a videotaped beating of a handcuffed man and reports by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica that he had promoted officers with disciplinary histories.

An Elkhart Police Officer Was Convicted of Drunken Driving — Then the Chief Promoted Him

Last year, Chief Ed Windbigler said he doubted the case against the officer would stick. After the officer pleaded guilty, the chief didn’t discipline him. This year, Windbigler promoted him to detective without telling an oversight board.

Judge in Joe Bryan Case Rejects Defense Pleas for New Trial

Texas’ highest criminal court will now decide the fate of Bryan, a former high school principal who has been in prison for 31 years for the murder of his wife, Mickey. A forensic expert who testified against him has admitted his conclusions in the case were wrong.

Elkhart City Council Members Support Investigation of Police Department

If the Department of Justice won’t investigate, council members say they would pay for an outside investigation into misconduct by Elkhart police.

With Trump’s Justice Department Retreating, Who Will Now Police the Police?

The Department of Justice is moving away from taking on abuses by local law enforcement. This is what that means for Elkhart, Indiana.

“I Don’t Want to Shoot You, Brother”

A shocking story of police and lethal force. Just not the one you might expect.

Elkhart, Indiana, Police Chief Suspended for 30 Days Following Release of Beating Video

The mayor disciplined the chief after revelations by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica about the city’s troubled police force. But the mayor made no public announcement, leaving people, including the chair of the city’s civilian oversight commission, to wonder where the chief was.

“They Should Have Been Fired on the Spot”: In Elkhart, Indiana, the Talk Is All About the Police and a Video

At a town hall meeting, the Police Department’s second in command defended his officers and criticized reporters. “What’s all this digging?” he said, while accusing the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica of an “ambush” for calling officers to ask for their comment.

Oregon Officials Call for Changes of Laws on Criminally Insane

The state’s attorney general said the rate of recidivism among defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity is “too high,” and key lawmakers said they plan to rewrite the state’s laws after an analysis by the Malheur Enterprise and ProPublica.

Indiana State Police Turn Down Elkhart Mayor’s Request for Broad Review of City’s Police Department

Stories by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica revealed Elkhart police officers’ misconduct and disciplinary histories. The state police were asked to investigate, but say that’s the job of the U.S. Justice Department.

Get Out of Jail for a Price: The First Investigation From Our Illinois Reporting Project

Over the next few months, we’ll publish more stories from across the state — including ones that look at topics involving the environment and worker safety.

Nearly All the Officers in Charge of an Indiana Police Department Have Been Disciplined — Including the Chief Who Keeps Promoting Them

Of the 34 supervisors in the Elkhart, Indiana, Police Department, 28 have been disciplined. Fifteen have been suspended. Seven have been involved in fatal shootings. Three have been convicted of criminal charges.

Who Runs This Police Department? Lots of Officers Who’ve Been Reprimanded or Even Suspended.

The Elkhart, Indiana, Police Department has 34 supervisors. Most of them have been disciplined for carelessness, incompetence or misconduct — including the chief.

What Oregon Officials Knew and When They Knew It

Members of the Psychiatric Security Review Board have said it is not their duty to track what happens to people they set free. But in private, board members and staff pushed to study recidivism and found high rates among people the board frees.

Oregon Board Says Those Found Criminally Insane Rarely Commit New Crimes. The Numbers Say Otherwise.

The Psychiatric Security Review Board questioned how many people it discharged from state custody returned to crime. But it did not share its findings or change policies even as former clients killed or raped.

Diversion Programs Say They Offer a Path Away From Court, but Critics Say the Tolls Are Hefty

The programs raise legal and ethical questions, including whether they create an uneven playing field for defendants and financial incentives for prosecutors to dispose of cases in ways they might not otherwise.

Indiana Police Officer Before Punching Handcuffed Man: “If You Spit Again, We’re Gonna Party”

On Friday, the Elkhart, Indiana, Police Department released a 30-second clip of two officers beating a man in custody. Now we have the full 30 minutes, ending with the man leaving the police station on a stretcher.

How a Police Beating in Elkhart, Indiana Unfolded

Reporting by ProPublica and the South Bend Tribune revealed a history of corruption and police abuse in Elkhart. This video, obtained through a public records request, shows police officers punching and kicking a handcuffed man.

Murder Charge Can’t Deter Sharpton’s Brother From Voting Rights Crusade

As more states adopt laws that could restrict turnout, Kenneth Glasgow and his allies are pushing to extend the vote to millions of ex-felons. Will the flimsily supported charge against him undermine this movement on the verge of its greatest success?

Two Indiana Police Officers to be Charged After Video Shows Them Beating Handcuffed Man

“A little overboard,” is how the police chief had previously described the officers’ actions. The decision to charge them came only after ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network demanded to see the video.

Texas Panel Faults Lab Chemist in Bryan Case for “Overstated Findings” and Inadequate DNA Analysis

The Texas Forensic Science Commission called out a second prosecution expert for her work on the murder case of the former high school principal convicted of the 1985 murder of his wife.

The Child Abuse Contrarian

Michael Holick, a renowned scientist turned expert witness, relies on his own controversial theory to help alleged abusers avoid prison and regain custody of the babies they were accused of harming.

Los Desaparecidos

La policía de Long Island dio como fugitivos de sus hogares a adolescentes inmigrantes perdidos. Una de las madres presintió que algo andaba mal y buscó las respuestas en los campos de matanza de la MS-13.

He Said He Faked Mental Illness to Avoid Prison. Now, Accused in 2 Killings, He’s Sent Back to a State Hospital.

A judge ruled that Anthony Montwheeler was not competent to stand trial for an assault and two murders that prosecutors say he committed just weeks after his release from the Oregon State Hospital.

The Disappeared

Police on Long Island wrote off missing immigrant teens as runaways. One mother knew better — and searched MS-13’s killing fields for answers.

Blood-Spatter Expert in Joe Bryan Case Says “My Conclusions Were Wrong”

The expert whose testimony was key to Bryan’s conviction for his wife’s 1985 murder says he now believes that some of his techniques were incorrect. His admission comes as a judge considers whether Bryan, whose case was the subject of a ProPublica and New York Times Magazine investigation, should get a new trial.

How the Trump Administration Went Easy on Small-Town Police Abuses

The Obama Justice Department thought Ville Platte, Louisiana — where officers jail witnesses to crimes — could become a model of how to erase policing abuses that plague small towns across the nation. Jeff Sessions decided not to bother.

Joe Bryan’s Attorneys Ask For New Trial, Say Murder Conviction Built On Faulty Forensics

During a three-day hearing in Texas, a succession of witnesses criticized the bloodstain-pattern analysis and exposed other flaws in the prosecution of a former high school principal convicted of the 1985 murder of his wife.

Bill Proposes Greater Accountability for New York Prosecutors Who Break the Law

With his signature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo could create an independent state commission to investigate and sanction prosecutors who withhold evidence or commit other abuses.

When Public Records Aren’t Public

In Elkhart, Indiana, even easy records can be hard to get. Trial exhibits? No. Appellate briefs? No. Police reports in the court file? No. And don’t even ask about moving those boxes.

Standing by Their Convictions

The DNA didn’t match. The witnesses weren’t sure. But the prosecution persisted.

Influential Texas Commission Says Blood-Spatter Testimony in Joe Bryan’s Murder Case Was “Not Accurate or Scientifically Supported”

The findings of Texas Forensic Science Commission will make it harder to deny a new trial to Bryan, a high school principal convicted of murdering his wife. The case was the subject of an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine.

Like Chicago Police, Cook County and Illinois Officials Track Thousands of People in Gang Databases

Gang files at other agencies include missing information and dead people.

Federal Judge to Consider Independent Monitor for Illinois Child Welfare Agency

State officials have failed to deal with children stuck in psychiatric hospitals.

Oregon Court System Shields Evaluation of Alleged Killer

Last year, Oregon officials tried unsuccessfully to keep secret records on a man found “guilty except for insanity” in a 1996 kidnapping. Now, the state court system is refusing to release a key record in his new murder case even though it's not “legally confidential.”

Illinois Lawmakers Demand Explanation on Children Stuck in Psychiatric Hospitals

A call for state welfare officials to appear at a public hearing follows our ProPublica Illinois investigation.

The Administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Keeps Monitoring Protesters

Chicago police and City Hall tracked anti-Trump demonstrators — and now state legislators want to let them use drones.

Where Is “Home” for Children in State Custody?

Many of us have distinct memories of our own childhood homes. That’s not the case for hundreds of children trapped in Illinois psychiatric hospitals.

Hundreds of Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals After They’re Cleared For Release

The Department of Children and Family Services struggles to find appropriate homes for young people with mental illness.

Every Day, a Child is Held Beyond Medical Necessity in Illinois

Hundreds of children and teens in state care are held each year in psychiatric hospitals for weeks or months at a time — even though they have been cleared to leave.

Blood Will Tell, Part II

Joe Bryan has spent the past three decades in prison for the murder of his wife, a crime he claims he didn’t commit. His conviction rested largely on “bloodstain-pattern analysis” — a technique still in use throughout the criminal-justice system, despite concerns about its reliability.

How an Unproven Forensic Science Spread Through the Criminal Justice System

Bloodstain-pattern analysis has been accepted as reliable evidence by appellate courts in one state after another with little or no examination of its scientific accuracy.

Blood Will Tell, Part I

The murder of Mickey Bryan, a quiet fourth-grade teacher, stunned her small Texas town. Then her husband, a beloved high school principal, was charged with killing her. Did he do it, or had there been a terrible mistake?

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