Stories

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

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "prison" ...

  • The Henry Pratt Mass Shooting

    On the afternoon of Feb. 15, disgruntled warehouse employee Gary Martin opened fire during a termination hearing at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Ill., killing five people and wounding several police officers before being fatally shot by law enforcement. Before police publicly identified Martin, the Tribune learned his name from sources and began investigating his background. One thing quickly became clear: Martin, a convicted felon who had served prison time for attempting to kill his girlfriend, never should have been allowed to purchase the gun used in the shooting. This discovery – aided by carefully worded Freedom of Information Act requests, unparalleled sourcing and a review of extensive court records – prompted the Illinois State Police to disclose hundreds of pages of documents related to Martin’s firearms license and gun purchase within days of the shooting. It was an unprecedented release of information, in terms of both expediency and subject manner. Illinois law expressly prohibits the disclosure of records related to firearm owner’s identification cards or concealed carried permits, but Tribune reporters were able to convince law-enforcement officials that Martin’s firearms history should be exempt from such protections because he fraudulently obtained his license by lying on his permit application. Upon receiving this information, reporters submitted further FOIAs in an effort to understand the depths of the state’s problem. A reporting project that started within hours of a mass shooting grew into an investigation that found 34,000 Illinois had their gun permits revoked – and that the state has no idea what happen to their guns. That meant 78 percent of people stripped of their gun licenses failed to account for their weapons. The responsive records – some of which required difficult fights and keen sourcing to obtain - exposed serious flaws in the national databases relied upon to conduct criminal background checks, as well as the state’s failure to ensure that people surrender their weapons after their Firearm Owner's Identification cards are revoked. In an analysis of data released for the first time, the Tribune found as many as 30,000 guns may still be in possession of people deemed too dangerous to own firearms. The Tribune also was able to create an online-lookup that allowed readers to look up how many people in their town had their gun permits stripped, the reason for the revocation and how many times that person had made a serious inquiry about purchasing a gun.
  • Bargaining the Badge: How Hundreds of Accused Texas Officers Avoid Prison

    Across Texas, hundreds of law enforcement officers have permanently surrendered their peace officer licenses in the past four years. A KXAN investigation of 297 of those surrenders uncovered nearly all the officers were accused or charged with a crime – most often felonies. KXAN also found this system allows some bad officers to operate under the radar for years. Through internal police department and court records, KXAN found several cases of officers accused repeatedly of misconduct. In those instances, the accused police officers were able to trade their badges in a plea bargain and walk away with probation.
  • An Innocent Man?

    Newsday’s multi-media investigation “An Innocent Man?” was the first to reveal widespread wrongdoing by Suffolk law-enforcement authorities in the 1975 Keith Bush murder conviction, one of the longest-running “innocent man” cases in U.S. history. In a year-long investigation, Newsday reporter Thomas Maier detailed: how police allegedly beat a false confession out of then-17-year-old Bush for the 1975 sex-related murder of schoolmate Sherese Watson; how forensic experts offered flawed evidence about Bush’s guilt and later lost the alleged murder weapon; how the prosecution’s main witness against Bush later recanted and said she made up all of her testimony; how DNA evidence pointing to Bush’s innocence was rejected; and, mostly significantly, how Bush’s trial prosecutor covered-up evidence of another potential suspect, John W. Jones Jr., who placed himself at the murder scene. That evidence about Jones remained a secret and Bush was convicted and sent to prison for 33 years. Newsday’s investigation began in June 2018 and the resulting 15,000-word print report and an accompanying documentary were published together in May 2019. Shortly afterward, a report by the current Suffolk County district attorney concluded that Bush had been wrongly convicted and a judge vacated his sentence – 44 years later. Several follow-ups by Newsday detailed reaction to the Bush case and were reflected in an updated documentary, written by Maier and edited by Newsday owner Patrick Dolan, which was posted on December 31, 2019. Maier’s painstaking work – which involved dozens of interviews and thousands of pages of legal documents – shed light on a tragic incident in the past and helped result in other similar cases receiving a thorough investigation.
  • Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn't

    The book revisits the murder conviction of Jo Ann Parks, sentenced to life in prison without parole for allegedly murdering her three young children in 1989by setting fire to her home and trapping them inside. In re-investigating the case, the author found flawed forensic science, false and contradictory testimony, and strong evidence of cognitive bias throughout the case, including use of an unreliable informant who later recanted, and sworn expert testimony that the fire began because Parks supposedly constructed a crude “incendiary device” by deliberately overloading a sabotaged electrical extension cord. Testing later proved the cord did not and could not start a fire. Information in the book has since been added to Parks’ existing habeas corpus petition filed by the California Innocence Project, now being considered by the state Supreme Court. Additional findings suggests the problems with flawed forensic science and cognitive bias in general, and in arson investigation in particular, is widespread and has led to other wrongful convictions. Correcting the use of flawed forensic and expert testimony is hindered by the legal system’s reliance on precedent, which slows and sometimes prevents the correction of scientifically dubious ideas used to win convictions. Nascent attempts to study and change this tendency to prolong the use of flawed forensic science initiated by the Obama Administration have been shut down by the Trump Administration.
  • Yemen’s Dirty War: An Associated Press Investigation

    A year-long investigative series revealing how key players in Yemen’s dirty war have engaged in atrocities and corruption — torturing prisoners, deploying child soldiers and stealing food aid intended for the starving.
  • WSAW-TV: The Lincoln Hills Youth Prison Document Trail

    Using state and federal records requests, WSAW-TV's senior investigative reporter found a potential cover-up of Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel's and their staff's handling of the state's youth prison crisis.
  • TX Observer: Prison by Any Other Name

    Since the 1990s, Texas has run a controversial, constitutionally dubious “civil commitment” program that keeps hundreds of sex offenders in intensive monitoring and treatment long after they’ve finished their prison sentences. In 2015, after the agency running the program nearly imploded amid mismanagement, Texas lawmakers essentially turned civil commitment over to a scandal-ridden private prison contractor eager to gobble up contracts at the intersection of incarceration and therapy. The result: non-existent treatment, shoddy medical care, and a new taxpayer-funded, privately operated lockup in middle-of-nowhere Texas, where men under civil commitment are now confined indefinitely. Since the facility opened, only five men have been released — four of them to medical facilities where they later died.
  • The Marshall Project: The Bail Bond Racket

    Many journalists have detailed the financial costs the bail bond industry imposes on poor or minority families. This article is the first to expose, in detail and to the penny, the financial benefits reaped by the bail bond industry, using the lightly regulated state of Mississippi as case in point.
  • The Marshall Project: Exploiting the Exonerated

    Two mentally disabled brothers spent 30 years in prison before DNA exonerated them of the rape and murder of an 11 year old girl. Once free, the very people supposed to help and protect them - their sister, lawyers and self-described advocates - preyed on them and ripped off hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • The Marshall Project and Los Angeles Times: The Great California Prison Experiment

    The Great California Prison Experiment examines the impacts on public safety of the state’s criminal justice reform measures that dramatically reduced the prison population.