Criminal Justice

At The Ellsworth American, I wrote a series of stories covering criminal justice issues in Hancock County, looking at the human impact of drug abuse, criminal justice policies and jail time. These are among the selected stories featured here.

“This is How America is Failing its Young Opioid Generation” | Vice | Jan. 7, 2019

Jeremy was young and addicted. Over six years, he was let down over and over again by the very system that was meant to help him.

"Maine judges go the distance lest jails become debtors’ prisons" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Dec. 7, 2017

An exploration into the complicated issue of debtors prisons, and how Maine’s court system attempts to keep people out of jail. But despite their efforts, many Mainers end up in jail for one or two nights based on failure to pay fines — and these kinds of disruptions can trap people in poverty.

"Video visitation technology helps inmates stay in touch, but at a price"The Ellsworth American, Maine | Nov. 24, 2017

A look at the downsides and benefits to video visitation -- a nationwide trend that's being pushed by big companies raking in profits from inmates and their families.

"How Hancock County Jail handles withdrawal"The Ellsworth American, Maine | Feb. 23, 2018

For some, the time spent incarcerated at the Hancock County Jail can be a reprieve from addiction, even a life-saver. It’s a chance to get clean, according to social workers, and to take advantage of local and state programs aimed at helping addicts avoid using.

For others, incarceration can pose a dangerous health risk — one that jail staff has become accustomed to handling.

"Defending the poor in Hancock County"The Ellsworth American, Maine | Feb. 8, 2018

The right to counsel, even for people who cannot pay, was established in the United States Constitution. But until 1963, that right applied only to federal trials. That year, the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that the standard must be applied at all levels for criminal defendants.

In Maine, as in other states, people who can’t afford a lawyer are appointed one by the court. 


"Immigrants Have Varying Views on the Path to Citizenship" City Limits, New York, N.Y. | Feb. 24, 2016

You wouldn't know it from listening to the discussion of immigration policy on the presidential campaign trail, but for immigrants with permanent residency, getting citizenship is not easy, not cheap and not a no-brainer.

"City Groups Battle Scams That Take Advantage of Immigrants’ Fears Under Trump"City Limits, New York, N.Y. | July 20, 2017

For nearly all of 2015, Tony Nieves, a Bronx resident, pretended he was a high ranking United States Immigration and Customs Services agent, the last to sign off on deportations and capable of protecting people by offering them legal advice. He told them he had to collect thousands in legal fees to help. In all, he defrauded immigrants in the Greater New York City area of at least $15,000, according to court documents.

"Washington County economy could feel impact if DACA ends" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Sep. 14, 2017

The Trump administration’s recent decision to end a program protecting undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children could have ripple effects on the local economy.

"Uninsured" | Columbia Journalism School | October 2015

A look at the health care options available to undocumented immigrants living in NYC, and the challenges with setting policy.

"From one end of the 7 line to the other, two worlds of immigration" | Columbia Journalism School | October 2015

A portrait of immigration in NYC on a Sunday morning.

"Loss of immigrant workers could hurt local businesses" The Ellsworth American, Maine | March 6, 2018

In July, on a whim, Steve Elliot pulled up to a Haitian encampment. For about 18 years, the NewLand Nursery and Landscaping Center owner had been employing Jamaicans through the federal H-2B program, which provides a temporary non-agricultural work visa for foreign laborers.

But under the Obama administration, he’d noticed more restrictions and more requirements around that program. Last season, he decided not to make hires through that program because he worried the workers would arrive too late in the season.


"Mantra of Betterment" The Pendulum, N.C. | Oct. 6, 2010 [link is to a PDF, as the paper's archives are unavailable online.]

A comprehensive look at Elon University's rapid development in the twenty-first century, growing from a small college to a major university within 10 years.

"Nurses urge MCMH to address staffing" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Sep. 7, 2017

Nurses union representatives delivered a petition with 66 signatures to Maine Coast Memorial Hospital officials Aug. 28 urging that improvements be made regarding staffing at the hospital.

"Market glut hits blueberry growers hard" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Dec. 8, 2017

This year was worse than most in recent memory. Many growers in Hancock and Washington counties left portions or entire fields unraked as the price of berries plummeted. Schmelzer didn’t rake his berries this year. A market glut, fueled in part by competition from high-bush blueberries, drove prices for blueberries so low that farmers were losing money on their operations.


"This Comedian in a Wheelchair Kept Crowds in Stitches…Until a Lack of Health Care Sidelined Her" | | Sep. 13, 2017

Ally Bruener used comedy to express what it's like to live with muscular dystrophy. But now she spends all her time battling Medicaid just to take care of her basic needs.

"'Poor White Trash artist' peddles her skills" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Oct. 5, 2017

Most of the time, she sleeps in Walmart parking lots. Or she’ll talk strangers into letting her park the hand-painted, rusting truck she lives in on their property so she can sleep for the night without worrying about someone asking her to leave.

The 1997 Chevrolet C/K 1500 has logged 300,000 miles. The vehicle gets repainted regularly, often with a fake wood paneling aesthetic, but the same words are always spray painted on the side: “Poor White Trash.” On the hood and along the back bumper, balls of dried paint stick to the top of the car like clumps of tape left behind by a carpenter.

Angel Sewell is a gypsy who trades in art.

"Ellsworth unites to honor mother killed in car crash" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Oct. 5, 2017

Liza Parker was here to start fresh. She came from farther up north, growing up in Lincoln with two brothers. Her main focus now was her two kids: a 5-year-old boy, Mason, and an 18-month-old girl, Tiaona.

"Veterans group build ramps for military matriarch, age 95" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Oct. 3, 2017

Edna Gerrish, at 95 years old, didn’t want to walk in Gouldsboro’s Memorial Day parade earlier this year because her legs were giving her problems.

"Kenny Freeman: musician, mechanic" | The Pilot, N.C. | July 16, 2010 [publication link here]

An interview with a local musician who recorded country music out of his converted U-Haul/studio.

"Student and Teacher: Jordanian Man Gains Education, Friendship in the Sandhills" | The Pilot, N.C. | Aug. 29, 2010

A story of a local man who befriends an immigrant car mechanic in small-town North Carolina, then helps him learn English and earn his GED.

"Teen seeks to make her mark on the equestrian scene" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Jan. 17, 2018

Adelaide Prosser, at 16, is more disciplined than most. She spent much of her summer training on horseback, or in the stables with her horses — one in Gouldsboro, and the other 70 miles away in Dixmont. When she wasn’t working one of her two jobs, that is.

She was saving up for a chance to spend three months studying dressage in Wellington, Fla., which becomes a hub for the world’s top equestrians each winter.


One of my key beats at The Ellsworth American was covering ranked choice voting (RCV), which passed in 2016 in a statewide election. Then, in 2017 and 2018, state politicians fought over how (and whether) to implement the new system.

"Ranked choice voting costs questioned" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Jan. 17, 2018

Among the issues involved in the statewide discussion about shifting Maine elections to ranked choice voting (RCV) is a question about how much money the new system would cost.

"RCV ball back in Legislature’s court" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Feb. 15, 2018

Three and a half months ago, Maine legislators passed a bill that provoked instant pushback from ranked choice voting (RCV) supporters. The result was an apparently successful bid to repeal portions of that law.

Now the Legislature may be faced with a new task related to changing Maine’s vote-count system: funding it.

"LePage abruptly empties Washington County prison overnight" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Feb. 9, 2018

At 4:30 a.m. Friday, Maine State Police and Department of Corrections officers notified 51 staff members at Machiasport’s Downeast Correctional Facility that they were being placed on paid administrative leave, effective immediately.

They will be laid off by March 2, according to a union representative for the officers.

"State may shift early special ed to local school districts" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Oct. 18, 2017

Children with special needs are at the center of a statewide debate about how to fund programs that support them, and who should deliver those services.

"Bump stocks are in demand; dealers say ban wouldn’t hurt" | The Ellsworth American, Maine | Oct. 12, 2017

Eight gun shops pepper eastern Maine roads on an 85-mile stretch between Holden and East Machias.

Of those, nearly all said they had not recently sold a device that facilitates automatic fire on semi-automatic weapons, called a bump stock. But multiple shops said they’d been fielding requests for them after members of Congress proposed legislation banning the devices.



Past Reporting Experience

Between 2009 and 2012, I wrote for multiple newspapers -- all of which have now either added paywalls or changed systems and lost their archives, which limits the samples I can include above. I wrote for Elon University's student newspaper, The Pendulum, for two years, logging more than 100 stories in that time. I wrote for The Pilot in Southern Pines, N.C. and The Times Record in Brunswick, Maine. I contributed regularly for a full year to The Greensboro News & Record, and ran the news program at WSOE, the Elon University radio station.

During that time I covered a Navy base closure, a lawsuit regarding excessive Tazing by police in North Carolina, an environmental movement to stem the spreading of sewage sludge, the disappearance and rescue operations for a professor's daughter, an animal shelter on the verge of being shut down by the state for numerous violations, the economic woes facing golf courses during the financial crisis in 2010. I also covered light-hearted things, like a Whoopie Pie-making contest in Maine (links to the restaurant, as the newspaper has a paywall).