Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

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Search results for "Chicago" ...

  • Grandma can’t accept your call: Inmates disconnected by phone costs

    This series of stories started with a simple question. Why does it cost so much for inmates to make calls from the Cook County Jail? In the course of my reporting on criminal and legal affairs for WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago, I had heard numerous people complain about the high cost of phone calls. Some digging confirmed that the price could be as high as $15.00 for 15 minute calls. Three or four calls a week at that price gets expensive even for financially stable middle class folks, but the people paying these fees were mostly the poorest residents in Chicago. That’s because most of the people in the Cook County Jail are there because they and their families couldn’t afford to post bond of a couple thousand, or sometimes even just hundreds of dollars to secure their freedom while awaiting trial. They are the people who are least able to afford such expensive phone calls. A few FOIA requests revealed the scheme (and scheme is the right word… I just looked it up: a crafty or secret plan of action). Cook County gave an exclusive phone contract to a company called Securus Technologies. Securus charged inflated phone rates and their exclusive deal in the jail meant inmates wanting to talk to their families or arrange their defense had no choice but to pay the rates. Securus then paid back to the county 57½ percent of the revenue from the calls. It netted the county about $4 million a year. Securus wouldn’t tell us their take but I imagine they did alright too. All of the money was coming out of the pockets of the poorest residents in Cook County, people who couldn’t even afford to post bond for their freedom. (As an aside, this isn’t just an issue in Cook County. According to its website Securus provides the phone systems for 850,000 inmates in 2,200 jails and prisons across the country.) Our reporting shed public light on a hugely profitable contract that no one was paying attention to. We documented the lives of the impoverished people getting hammered by the policy and then turned the hammer on the local elected officials to ask them to explain how this was a good policy. The public officials responded in a way that once again proved the genius of democracy. Our efforts and the results are detailed in subsequent answers below.
  • Sweetheart Deals and Criminal Ties in Cicero

    This series of stories exposed millions of dollars in questionable spending and waste, tainted by insider deals and nepotism, in the town government of Cicero, an inconic Chicago suburb.
  • The Violent Death of David Koschman

    This report investigates a 7-year-old homocide case involving a nephew of then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley named Richard J. Vanecko, turned up evidence that the same sort of political clout that gave Chicago widespread corruption during the Daley administration had also colored the police investigation of the murder.
  • The Violent Death of David Koschman

    This report investigates a 7-year-old homocide case involving a nephew of then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley named Richard J. Vanecko, turned up evidence that the same sort of political clout that gave Chicago widespread corruption during the Daley administration had also colored the police investigation of the murder.
  • Tea Party, Rep. Joe Walsh Sued for $100,000 in Child Support

    A freshman Chicago U.S. Representative , tax-bashing Tea Party champion, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and their three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case.
  • Campus Security

    ChicagoTalks reporters found only a handful of the 63 colleges and universities in Cook County are following an Illinois law -- the Campus Security Enhancement Act of 2008 (SB 2691) -- aimed to make campuses safe. Under the law, colleges and universities are required to create all-hazard emergency and violence prevention plans, along with threat assessment teams and violence prevention committees. The schools are also required to hold annual security trainings. ChicagoTalks reporters contacted, often repeatedly, every public and private, two and four-year college and university in Cook County, and determined that 11 schools appear to be violating the law, while 45 schools provided conflicting or incomplete information -- or no information at all. Reporters found just seven schools in compliance.
  • Renaissance 2010 Analysts

    The two-part series with accompanying interactive Web graphics represents the most rigorous analysis to date of the performance of Chicago's Renaissance 2010 schools.
  • Out At First

    The Chicago Housing Authority has one of the most punitive criminal activity eviction policies in the nation. The agency moves to evict tenants based on a single arrest -- even when the crime is committed by their children, anyone else living in the unit or even a guest. Tenants are also subject to eviction if they are arrested for a crime that occurred off CHA property, even if it's in another state.
  • Jobopoly

    Despite investments of $1.2 billion over five years, corresponding to 55 percent of the total Tax Increment Funding program in Chicago, the downtown area has lost over 12,000 jobs during the past five years, predominantly hitting African-American communitites.
  • Pension Games

    "The Tribune and WGN-Chicago teamed up in the series to uncover lucrative pension perks for union officials and in the process exposed how for decades lawmakers used the pension system for personal and political gain."