The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Supporting investigative reporting projects around the world

  • Next Application Deadline

    Monday Sept. 25, 2017 - 11:59 pm (Eastern)
  • Grantees’ Work

    Questions swirl in Indiana around validity of mental competency testimony

    October 13th, 2017

    Steve Burger of WNIN public radio of Indiana delved into the background of a psychologist often hired as an expert court witness after the psychologist was convicted of felony charges for falsifying an evaluation in one case.  The psychologist, Albert Fink, had performed dozens of competency evaluations over the last 10 years, and those evaluations were now under question after authorities said he confessed to falsifying a report related to a trial at which he was supposed to offer testimony. WNIN’s reporting revealed a system easily abused because it lacks adequate oversight. Courts rely on psychologists to assess the mental fitness of defendants, but serious questions now swirl around how courts determine mental competency in Indiana and what system of oversight is in place to ensure defendants get a valid examination.

    As part of its ongoing investigation, WNIN uncovered a list of 29 cases in which it is suspected the doctor may have falsified the evaluations. WhenWNIN contacted the chief public defender of the Indiana Supreme Court, officials took the unusual step of actually reaching out to the defendants in those other cases to advise them of their options.

    (In photo by AJ Casey for WNIN, Psychologist Albert Fink at a court hearing in GIbson County, Indiana. The doctor was charged with obstruction of justice after admitting he had faked court-ordered mental health examinations.)

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]

    FIJ/Schuster Institute fellow dives deeper into the factors behind recidivism in America

    October 12th, 2017

    In her latest package focusing on recidivism in America for USA Today, FIJ/Schuster Institute diversity fellow Lottie Joiner examines how women are faring in a criminal justice system designed with men in mind. Many of the programs that help inmates re-enter society aren’t appropriate for women, Joiner reports. Once an inmate is in the system, it’s hard for her to stay out; in fact, about 70% of female inmates return to the system within five years. Joiner most recent multimedia package focuses on the struggle by one woman to keep herself out of prison for good.

    Two previous installments began Joiner’s deep dive into re-entry programs, as part of USA Today’s ambitious “Policing the USA” project.

    Chapter 1 described the recidivism problem in America.

    Chapter 2 focused on how one woman was seeking to change the system after being caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

    Chapter 3 looks into the experiences of another woman, who has been in and out of custody since she was 12.

    (In photo by Jarrad Henderson for USA Today, Candace Harp-Harlow talks about the struggles to put herself back on the right path.)

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Ford Foundation.]

    Lottery investigation expands nationally, globally

    September 27th, 2017

    Jeff Kelly Lowenstein has been leading reporters from across the globe in an investigation of the worldwide lottery industry.

    In the United States, he assembled a team from the Columbia Journalism School and PennLive as part of an ambitious reporting project to better understand how lotteries are gamed by some of their frequent players. The team submitted public records requests to every state with a lottery, sending more than 100 public record requests to obtain information about their winners, game odds and investigative reports.

    Kelly Lowenstein also partnered with about 40 people, including journalists, from 10 countries, who worked in the United States, Europe and Africa. They discovered a massive industry, nearly $300 billion strong in 2014 – an amount greater than the gross domestic product of 157 countries. Eight companies play an outsized role in lotteries around the world, operating in as many as 100 countries. Some of these companies have avoided hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and have sought to curry favor by hosting lavish parties.

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Green Park Foundation.]

    In North Carolina, questions emerge over housing the mentally ill

    September 9th, 2017

    A team from Carolina Public Press reviewed three years of public records for all 1,200 adult care homes in North Carolina and conducted dozens of interviews with regulators, patient advocates, facility managers and others. The result was a series of stories revealing the inconsistencies and troubling issues that undermine the regulation and oversight of these private, for-profit facilities.

    (Photo by Colby Rabon/Carolina Public Press: A New Outlook of Taylorsville is an adult care home in rural Alexander County in North Carolina. Residents started a fire there in December 2014. The facility remains open, with zero stars, according to state regulators.)

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]

    New Hampshire takes unique approach in housing mentally ill

    September 6th, 2017

    With no place to house some mentally ill people who could pose a danger to themselves or others, New Hampshire has taken the unusual step of housing them in the psychiatric unit of the state prison — even if they haven’t committed a crime, according to a report by Nancy West, co-published by InDepthNH.org and the New Hampshire Business Review. That’s despite warnings by the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society three decades ago advising against commingling civilly committed individuals with convicted criminals. Some states, West noted, have banned the practice even for very brief holds.

    (Photo by Nancy West: “Therapy booths” are used for group therapy for some mentally ill patients at the Secure Psychiatric Unit at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord, New Hampshire.)

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.]

    Investigations Raise Questions about State Lotteries

    August 23rd, 2017

    Massachusetts has more repeat lottery winners than any other state, and some are redeeming so many winning tickets that they’re raising questions about the integrity of the $5 billion state lottery. Massachusetts officials have long suspected that some frequent winners cash lottery tickets for others who don’t want to claim the money themselves because of taxes, child support or other debts, wrote Michael Levenson of the Boston Globe and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, a visiting professor at Columbia last semester.

    The story was part of an analysis of nearly 11 million lottery records from 34 states by PennLive.com and students at Columbia University’s Graduate School.

    In Connecticut, a handful of big lottery winners show up again and again. A first-ever analysis of lottery winnings dating back to mid-1998, conducted by the Hartford Courant in collaboration with students at the Columbia journalism school, found 57 people who have won $1,000 or more at least 50 times.

    The projects in Massachusetts and Connecticut are part of an international investigation involving reporters from Africa, Europe and the United States.

    [Reporting for this project was provided by the Green Park Foundation.]

    Investigation reveals the reach of Big Pharma across Latin America

    August 7th, 2017

    An investigation led by Fabiola Torres on behalf of Ojo-publico.com reveals the pressure exerted by pharmaceutical companies across Latin America to prolong their monopolies via diplomatic lobbying, court action and the use of the patent system to stifle competition. The result offers a glimpse at questionable practices that make it difficult for some of the region’s most vulnerable populations gain access to costly medicines. The investigation was a collaboration that brought together journalists from Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala and Colombia.

    [Reporting for this project was sponsored by the Green Park Foundation.]

    Public defenders lose income as prosecutors divert traffic fines

    August 7th, 2017

    Prosecutors in Louisiana are diverting traffic fines to their coffers, depriving public defenders and other agencies of much-needed revenue. An investigation by Samantha Sunne on behalf of The Lens, shows that an increasing number of District Attorneys across the state are using a pre-trial diversion program to keep traffic fines for themselves. Ordinarily, traffic tickets go through the court system and the resulting fines are divided among several agencies. But the diversion program keeps the tickets from reaching the court system, which means the fines aren’t shared with other agencies such as public defenders offices, which are already underfunded and are losing a key source of income.

     

    [Reporting for this project was sponsored by the Park Foundation.]

    Allegations of labor violations plague GMO industry

    July 16th, 2017

    A two-year investigation found that seed-corn companies like Monsanto use contractors to recruit thousands of migrant farm workers for producing hybrid corn seeds in an $11 billion industry. According to the investigation by Laird Townsend for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, the use of contractors has led to repeated allegations of labor violations over the past decade against Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, and their contractors — from broken recruiting promises and minimum-wage violations, to improperly withheld pay and substandard housing.

    (Photo by Alan Pogue/Texas Center for Documentary Photography: Marcilia Estrada Castillo reaches to pull off a tassel from an ear of corn on a detasseling job in 1981. Detasseling facilitates the production of hybrid corn. The practice has remained little changed for decades.)

    [Reporting for this project was sponsored by the Park Foundation.]

    After overturned murder convictions, charges against new suspects rare

    July 14th, 2017

    Hella Winston examined 263 wrongful murder convictions for her piece published by the Daily Beast and found that prosecutors brought charges against a new suspect in just 7 percent of those cases. It’s partly because prosecutors don’t want to acknowledge their mistakes and the challenges they face in successfully prosecuting another suspect after an earlier conviction has been thrown out.

    [Reporting for this project was sponsored by the Reva and David Logan Foundation.]