New England Muckrakers

Notable investigative stories from newspapers, websites and TV and radio newsrooms in the six New England states plus “Citizen Muckraker” reports.

Recent Posts

Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

Photo by Bob Miller/For The Washington Post

Expensive items like iPhones, sofas, and computers can be paid for over monthly installments instead of a lump sum.  Retailers are working with people who can't quite call themselves middle class, giving them access to luxury goods by offering long-term payment plans. The problem?  These payment plans add up to far more money than the retail items are worth.  A sofa-love seat combo worth $1,500 could reach $4,150 if paid for over a two-year, weekly payoff plan. Continue Reading →

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DEA agent steals woman’s identity to create phony Facebook account–And Government says it’s ok

Facebook

Sondra Arquiett was "catfished" in 2010--by a DEA agent who created a fake Facebook account using Arquiett's identity to pursue suspected criminals online. But it doesn't stop there.  The same DEA agent accessed Arquiett's cell phone to post compromising photos of her on the account, free for anyone else with an account to see. The profile has since been deleted, and the Justice Department is investigating the incident (after Buzzfeed broke the story on Oct. 6), but the government doesn't think the DEA agent did anything wrong. Continue Reading →

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Bridgewater State Hospital cited in three restraint-related deaths

JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

Bradley Burns was an inmate at Bridgewater State Hospital, a "prison for the mentally ill."  Burns was a paranoid schizophrenic who strangled another inmate to death after claiming he saw spiders on the other inmate. After the incident, Bridgewater State clinicians and prison guards kept Burns in solitary confinement, and strapped into five-point restraints for 23 hours a day.  His head, eyes, and hands were put into protective gear—but rather than protect, this equipment evidently killed him. From the story: "Dr. Kevin M. Monahan, a Boston Medical Center cardiologist interviewed by the Globe, said that the clozapine prescribed to Burns as well as his long hours completely immobilized in restraints could have increased the chances that he would suffer an irregular heartbeat, which the medical examiner concluded was the most likely cause of his death. Continue Reading →

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Prison bankers cash in on captive customers

JPay/Facebook

It's expensive to be an inmate in the United States—and families of inmates are often left footing the bill. Costs for basic needs such as toiletries are rising, while inmates wages have remained stagnate.  In some places, prison inmates earn 12 cents an hour.  JPay is a bank that allows people to transfer money to their incarcerated loved ones, but the fees are steep.  Fees can reach from 35 to 45 percent. From the story: "JPay and other prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives, the Center for Public Integrity found in a six-month investigation." Read the full investigation at the Center for Public Integrity.  It's part of a two-part series. Continue Reading →

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Asthma hospitalizations on the rise in Connecticut

Jodie M. Gil Photo

Asthma rates or on the rise in Connecticut, and ER visits for asthma-related issues are also increasing. The State Department for Public Health reports people in urban areas New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, and New London were admitted to the ER for asthma-related symptoms twice as often as suburban residents. Minorities were also found to be more prone to asthma, the primary reason being a high number of them live in cities.  The urban environment, and the smog and pollution that comes with is, is the common denominator. From the story: "In 2012, the state DPH published 'The Burden of Asthma in Connecticut,' which reviewed data from school asthma tracking programs, death certificates, federal labor reports, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys, state Medicaid data and hospital records... Continue Reading →

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Is the public at risk from police cruisers?

state police cruiser Massachusetts accident

Over the past five years, Massachusetts State Police have been involved in over 1,800 vehicle crashes--and that's about average for law enforcement around the country. Police drivers appear to be involved in about twice as many accidents per mile as drivers overall--and the state has paid out millions in lawsuits over the years. From the story: "Yet the cost of police crashes — in lives, injuries, and lawsuits — has drawn little notice compared to police shootings, even though, nationwide, crashes are more common, killing dozens of officers and civilians a year and injuring countless more." Read the full story at The Boston Globe Continue Reading →

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Improving transportation in Connecticut: A decade of slow going

Image courtesy of the CT State Department of Transportation

Connecticut's out of date transportation system isn't improving, despite five increases in the state’s wholesale fuel tax. The money is being spent--just not on transportation reform.  The recession in 2009 coupled with other issues have left Connecticut's transportation system in a state of limbo. From the story: "The 2013-14 state budget appears to dedicate nearly all fuel tax receipts for transportation. But at the same time it not only canceled an important, secondary general fund subsidy for transportation, it also required transportation to shift some of its resources back to the general fund...Add up the pluses and minuses and the transportation fund received $91 million less in 2013-14 than originally promised in law." Read the whole story at the Connecticut Mirror

 

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Danger lurks underground from aging gas pipes

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Almost every other day for the past decade, a gas leak has either destroyed property, caused injury, or killed someone in the United States. According to a new investigation by the USA Today network, there's been over $2 billion in damages, over 100 fatalities, and at least 600 injuries since 2004. From the story: "The causes are many and complex, and often outside of the utility company's control, from construction workers hitting a gas pipe while digging to weather. But one nagging concern persists: aging bare-metal gas pipes that are susceptible to rust and corrosion, which can lead to leaks. A review of federal data shows there are tens of thousands of miles of cast-iron and bare-steel gas mains lurking beneath American cities and towns — despite these pipes being a longtime target of National Transportation Safety Board accident investigators, government regulators and safety advocates. Continue Reading →

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