Human Interest

Young Man Walks Across America to Listen, Understand

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

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In 2012, at the age of 23, Andrew Forsthoefel decided to walk 4,000 miles across America with a handmade sign

Andrew Forsthoefel sets off on his cross-country walk. By Therese Jornlin.

that said “Walking to Listen.” Along the way, he recorded dozens of stories from the people he met. Now settled in Western Massachusetts, Forsthoefel has a new book about  his journey. I joined him for a much shorter stroll to talk about his experience…. [Aired on New England Public Radio, March 2017]

To download audio, right-click here.

Treatment Island: Addicts Sent To Recover Off Coast of Cape Cod

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

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About a dozen miles off the coast of Cape Cod sits a rustic island named Penikese — part of the Elizabeth island chain. A hundred years ago, Penikese was home to a leper colony, then a school for troubled boys and a bird sanctuary. In the fall of 2016, Penikese opened to its newest incarnation — a treatment program for opioid addicts. [Aired November 2016 on New England Public Radio, and December 2016 on WHYY's The Pulse. Also part of the New England News Collaborative.]

Life After Wrongful Conviction

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

[The New York Times, Sunday Review, May 29, 2016]

by Daniel Zender for The New York Times

Springfield, Mass. — IT’S hard to imagine worse luck than getting locked up for a crime you did not commit. And yet for people who have been convicted and later cleared — almost 1,800 in the United States since the late 1980s — the unlucky streak may continue. It turns out that where you spent your prison years determines how much help you get starting over, if you get any at all.

Take Mark Schand, who spent 27 years in the Massachusetts prison system for the 1986 murder of Victoria Seymour, a 25-year-old killed by a stray bullet outside a nightclub in Springfield.

For years, defense lawyers argued that Mr. Schand, who at the time was preparing to open a clothing store, was miles away from the crime, that witnesses had been coerced and that evidence had been manipulated. Mr. Schand eventually brought in investigators from the New Jersey innocence organization, Centurion Ministries, who persuaded a crucial witness to recant. In 2013, a judge granted a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, and he freed Mr. Schand. The local district attorney later dismissed the charges.

By then, Mr. Schand had missed out on raising three sons, pursuing a career in retail and living with his wife, Mia. Yet he wasn’t particularly bitter. “I was just happy I was out,” he said. “And I figured I’d just focus on that day forth.”

But after the initial euphoria of freedom, Mr. Schand assumed the state would come knocking to make things right. After all, offenders in Massachusetts get housing assistance, job training, health care, even help opening a bank account after they’re released. Isn’t an innocent man equally deserving?….

To continue reading at The New York Times, click here

Staying Alive: The Art and Science of Living to 100

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

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Photo by Karen Brown/Peter Chilton.

More people are living to a hundred than ever before — twice as many as twenty years ago. And they’re often living quite well – which is why centenarians have become a popular group to study in the science of aging.

Listen here to an audio essay of my quest to meet centenarians in Western Massachusetts and learn the secret to their longevity. Voices of: Arky Markham, Helen Backiel Krok, Althea Cowles and Eva Blondin. (Music by John Townsend.)

This story was first performed as a staged reading at Live Art Magazine in Northampton, MA on Oct. 23, 2015.

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Wrongfully Convicted (for 27 years). Then Things Get Really Unfair.

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

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Mark and Mia Schand.

In fall of 2013, Mark Schand walked out of court in Springfield, Massachusetts, a free man – after 27 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit. Two years later, Schand is still getting his bearings. He’s living with the wife who stood by him — and is trying to find a way forward with little help from the system that locked him up. New England Public Radio’s Karen Brown reports.

To download audio, right-click  here

Shorter version aired on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Sequel: Lance and Nina – A Recovering Addict Moves On …

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Lance Rice graduates from ‘drug court’ in Greenfield, Mass., April 2015.

Last Spring, New England Public Radio aired a story about a recovering heroin addict in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, named Lance Rice and the woman whose house he robbed, Nina Rossi.

Back then, sitting in Rossi’s kitchen, Rice said, “I’m so grateful there’s people like Nina out there, because the normal person would automatically hate somebody who did that to their home.” And Rossi responded, “Well, I did hate you, Lance. We had your picture from the newspaper with ‘F.U.’ written on it on the refrigerator. Cuz we felt violated.”

And yet they forged an unlikely friendship as Rice entered a court program that offers treatment instead of jail.

A year later, many things have evolved – in Rice’s recovery, and in his relationship with Nina Rossi.

To hear the update, visit here.