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Beth Schwartzapfel is a staff writer. Her reporting on the criminal justice system has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and Mother Jones. She won the June 2014 Sidney Award, the 2016 James Aronson Award, and the 2016 John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim Prize for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting, for which she was also runner up in 2014 and 2015. In 2019, a story she co-reported about homeless sex offenders was nominated for a National Magazine Award.
Phone 212-803-5273
Twitter @schwartzapfel
Lance Lowry, who recently retired after 20 years as a corrections officer, outside the Huntsville Unit in Texas.
News November 1
Fewer guards lead to more lockdowns, rising tensions and scant access to healthcare.
Feature October 31
A landmark class-action lawsuit goes to court this week, featuring grisly testimony about botched medical care in state prisons.
As part of the settlement of Nuñez v. City of New York, a 2011 class-action lawsuit filed by Rikers Island detainees, federal monitors periodically report on use of force across the jail complex. This image from the Eleventh Report shows at least 12 officers in a recreational area responding to two detainees who refused to be handcuffed.
Life Inside October 5
Rikers Island has been notorious for violence and neglect for decades. But detainees, corrections officers and officials tell us the New York City jail complex has plunged into a new state of emergency.
Protests and vigils were held nationwide in 2020 for Elijah McClain, who died after paramedics injected him with the sedative ketamine during an encounter with police.
Feature September 22
Criminal charges against paramedics in Elijah McClain’s death raise questions about when emergency medical responders should be held accountable for fatalities in police custody.
News August 10
Three years after the First Step Act required the Bureau of Prisons to treat more people with medications for opioid addiction, only a tiny fraction are receiving them.
News July 15
Behind bars, drug use is rampant and uniquely deadly, new data shows.
On May 4, 2021, President Joe Biden extended class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogues through October, making it easier to go after low-level drug dealers. Critics say it will disproportionately affect communities of color.
The Lowdown June 16
A little-noticed law could make it easier to punish people for low-level drug crimes — and put them in prison for longer with less proof.
In Palm Beach County, Florida, the number of people in county jails, including the main detention center pictured here, dropped by nearly 250 during the pandemic.
News June 7
Judges, prosecutors and sheriffs in many states sent people home instead of to jail last year, but new data suggests the change is not lasting.
Trent Taylor was released from the John B. Connally Unit prison in Kenedy, Texas on Friday, April 9, 2021. He fought for the right to sue his guards for placing him in two filthy cells.
News May 3
It’s the first time in years the highest court allowed such a suit to proceed. The ruling suggests it is reconsidering protections for officers who cause harm.
Evan Miller, right, was escorted to the Lawrence County Courthouse in Moulton, Ala., in 2006. In April 2021, he was resentenced to life without parole for the 2003 murder of Cole Cannon.
News April 30
The new ruling could worsen existing racial disparities in states that condemn teens to die in prison.