Shoshana Walter is a staff reporter at The Center for Investigative Reporting. She’s covered cops, courts, drugs, guns, and human trafficking.
Her latest investigation with reporter Amy Julia Harris exposed how judges across the country have ordered defendants into rehabs that are little more than unpaid work camps for private industry. Under the guise of criminal justice reform, people struggling with addictions have been forced to bottle Coca Cola, manufacture chicken for KFC and PetSmart, and make pregnancy pillows sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond. The investigation prompted four federal class-action lawsuits, government investigations, and led several companies to cancel their contracts.
For her 2016 investigation into sexual abuse of marijuana workers, Shoshana embedded on illegal marijuana farms in California’s Emerald Triangle. There, she encountered an epidemic of sex abuse and human trafficking in the industry – and a criminal justice system focused more on the illegal drugs. The story prompted legislation, a criminal investigation and grassroots efforts by the community, including the founding of a worker hotline and safe house.
Her investigation on America’s armed security guard industry revealed how armed guard licenses have been handed out to people with histories of violence, including abusive cops and even people barred by courts from owning guns. The series led to new laws and an overhaul of California’s regulatory system, and won the 2015 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for national reporting.
Shoshana got her start as a night shift cops reporter at the Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, where she juggled daily deadlines and nightly jail visits with long-term narrative projects. Her three-part series on a fatal after-school fight between two middle schoolers won the Gold Medal for Public Service from the Florida Society of News Editors, and her narrative series on child molestation garnered the Sigma Delta Chi award for non-deadline reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.
After moving to Oakland, California, Shoshana covered crime – and the socioeconomics and politics behind it – for The Bay Citizen and The New York Times. She wrote about the policing of people with mental illness, the theft of a city councilman’s Rihanna tickets, and the city’s entrenched street violence. She also covered protests. Lots of protests. She talked her way out of an arrest during one protest, and endured tear gas during another.
Shoshana graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in American Studies and a concentration in ethnic and gender studies.
While at Mount Holyoke, she interned at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, founded a feminist magazine and studied abroad in Amsterdam, where she wrote about Dutch and immigrant women in hip hop. Some of her jobs during her college years included operating an emergency help line for low-income women in New York City, selling watches at the mall, and managing a community center for LGBT students. She left Mount Holyoke with a writing award and the Susan Jones Prize for commitment to social justice.