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Shannon Heffernan

Shannon Heffernan


Shannon is a criminal justice reporter. She's also reported on mental health, poverty, labor and climate change. 

Her reporting has earned her a National Murrow Award for best writing and a PRINDI for best writing, as well as awards from the Illinois AP and Chicago Headline Club. 

Shannon also writes short fictional stories and has been published Hobart, The Indiana Review and The Columbia Review, where she won the 2016 prize for fiction.

She co-founded of Life of the Law, a podcast and multimedia website that tells surprising stories about all things legal.

Recent Stories


Inmate Dies After Altercation With Prison Staff, Death Ruled A Homicide

After an “altercation” with prison staff, 65-year old Larry Earvin died. Documents from the coroner show he had multiple fractured ribs.


Poor Medical Care Leads To Preventable Deaths In Illinois Prisons

In 2016 and 2017, 174 people died while in an Illinois prison. Some of those deaths could have been prevented.


Months After Prison Death, Family Still Waits For Answers

Earl Little’s family suspects he was murdered in prison, but says months after his death, IDOC won’t provide them with basic information.

16 Shots

Ep 3: The Fallout

Protesters take to the streets. Critics attack the mayor and police department. A federal probe finds a pattern of abuse by Chicago cops.

16 Shots

Ep 1: The Night Of

The police shooting of Laquan McDonald forces Chicago to prepare for potential riots. We piece together details from McDonald’s too-short life and hear from Officer Jason Van Dyke in his first interview since the shooting.


Rauner Open To Changes So Disabled Prisoners Get Released On Time

Rauner says IDOC followed the law when it kept prisoners with disabilities in prison after release dates but is open to discussing changes.


New ‘Gang Book’ Says More Money Needed To Help Get Girls Out Of Gangs

Girls in gangs are more likely to leave a life of crime, but there’s a “disgraceful” lack of federal money to help get them out.


Illinois DOC Keeps People With Disabilities In Prison Beyond Release Dates

Ellis spent an extra year behind bars, because he couldn’t find housing. Halfway houses that accommodate disabilities are in short supply.


Sheriff Faces Lawsuit For Holding People In Jail After Release Order

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is facing a lawsuit for holding people in jail after a judge ordered their release.

WBEZ Updates

Advocates Release Report On Bail System Overhaul

Five months after Cook County overhauled its court bail system, advocates are releasing a report on what has changed.

WBEZ Updates

Transgender Women In Prison Sue Over Access To Health Care

Transgender women are filing a class action lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Corrections over access to health care.

WBEZ Updates

State Rep. Proposes Legislation To Ensure People Who Post Bail Aren't Denied Public Defenders

An Illinois bill to ensure poor people get public defenders, even if they post bail.

WBEZ Updates

Senators Hear From Controversial Chicago Circuit Court Nominee

On Wednesday, U.S. senators heard from President Trump’s controversial nominee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

WBEZ Updates

DOC, Transgender Inmate Reach Agreement

The Illinois Department of Corrections and a transgender inmate asking to be moved to a women’s prison have reached an agreement.

WBEZ Updates

Officials Vote On Nearly $31M Wrongful Conviction Settlement For 'Englewood Four'

Chicago City Council’s finance committee voted Monday to pay out $31 million to four men who say they were coerced into giving false confessions by police.

Curious City

Where Does Your Poop Go?

Curious City finds out where your poop goes by taking a journey through the Chicago-area sewer system.

WBEZ Updates

Cook County Officials Say They Are Working To Reduce Upcoming Layoffs

Cook County officials say they are working on a plan that would reduce the number of layoffs that could be voted on at Tuesday's budget hearing.

WBEZ Updates

Report: Youth Confinement Dropped 60 Percent Over The Last Decade

The number of kids confined by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice has dropped by 60 percent in the last decade.


Ex-President Barack Obama Shows Up In Chicago For Jury Duty

Former President Barack Obama, free of a job that forced him to move to Washington for eight years, showed up to a downtown Chicago courthouse for jury duty on Wednesday morning.

WBEZ Updates

Some Alderman Say There's Not Enough Black And Latino CPD Hires

As the Chicago Police Department says it’s ramping up officer hiring, some Aldermen are critical that not enough black and Latino people are getting jobs.

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