Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson is a Justice Correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the Newscasts and

While in this role, Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Outside of her role at NPR, Johnson regularly moderates or appears on legal panels for the American Bar Association, the American Constitution Society, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others. She's talked about her work on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, PBS, and other outlets.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She has been a finalist for the Loeb award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois.

The bipartisan effort to overhaul the criminal justice system for drug offenders has hit a speed bump.

Some members of Congress are trying to tie those lighter punishments for drug defendants to a new bill that the Justice Department says would make it harder to prosecute a range of crimes from food safety to business fraud.

The plan, passed by voice vote by the House Judiciary Committee to little notice last week, would require prosecutors to prove guilt to a higher standard in many cases, by default.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The mayor of Gary, Ind., acknowledged Thursday that police in some cities may be stepping back because of a rise in public scrutiny of their actions, a controversial phenomenon known as the Ferguson effect.

The chief of the Justice Department's civil rights division says "too many barriers still exist in courts across America" when it comes to providing lawyers to poor criminal defendants.

In a speech to the first-ever National Consortium on the Right to Counsel, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, "The bottom line is this: Denying one's Sixth Amendment right to counsel can negatively impact public safety. And it also drains precious taxpayer resources."

This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday

The acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration said the police may be "reluctant to engage" for fear "rightly, or wrongly, that you become the next viral video," adding a new voice to the debate over public scrutiny of law enforcement.

Over the past few days, thousands of federal prisoners have been leaving confinement early and returning to their communities — the result of changes to sentencing guidelines for drug-related crimes.

And who will be monitoring those former inmates?

In some ways, the buck stops with Matthew Rowland. He's the chief of the probation and pretrial services office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Dana Bowerman walked out of a federal prison camp in Bryan, Texas, Monday morning and for the first time in more than a decade, she chose her own breakfast.

"I had five pieces of different kinds of pizza," Bowerman told All Things Considered in an interview. "Been waiting 15 years for that. I about choked though because I got kind of emotional and I'd have a mouthful of pizza ... and it still feels very surreal."

The FBI Agents Association honored fallen colleagues and the former head of U.S. Special Operations in a star-studded charity gala in Washington on Wednesday.

The second-annual awards dinner generated money to help provide scholarships for children of FBI workers and funds that offer "special assistance" to agents and their families.

More than a hundred of the nation's top police chiefs and prosecutors are joining forces today to launch a new effort to cut the number of people in prison. The new coalition of 120 heavyweights, called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, is based on one big idea: Putting too many people behind bars doesn't keep the public safe.

"Our experience has been, and in some ways it's counterintuitive, that you really can reduce crime and incarceration at the same time," said Ronal Serpas, co-chair of the group.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee are preparing to introduce a bill Thursday they're billing as "companion" legislation to the major Senate sentencing overhaul unveiled last week.

It's wonder enough in sharply-divided Washington that nine Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate came together this week to do anything, let alone touch the once politically charged arena of crime and punishment.

But groups as different as the ACLU and Koch Industries had joined this year in a coalition to press for change, and so too did senators as different as Iowa Republican Charles Grassley and Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin.

FBI Director James Comey said he is closely monitoring the investigation into the possible compromise of security information on Hillary Clinton's email server, but he declined to offer details about the politically sensitive matter.

The State Department is preparing to release another batch of Hillary Clinton's email messages Wednesday. It's the latest in what Clinton herself called a process of "drip drip drip" that will extend into early next year.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



A bipartisan group of senators on the Judiciary Committee is preparing to unveil a criminal justice overhaul proposal as early as Thursday, two sources familiar with the deal told NPR.

The plan follows months of behind-the-scenes work by the staffs of Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the committee, and several other lawmakers representing both political parties.

A federal judge has thrown out four bribery charges against Sen. Robert Menendez and his longtime friend and donor, leaving intact the bulk of the corruption case against them.

Prosecutors indicted Menendez and Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor, in April, after accusing the men of engaging in a quid pro quo bribery scheme in which Melgen financed the lawmaker's lavish trips and political campaigns in exchange for help advancing his own interests with federal agencies.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is partnering with police and fire departments and pharmacies Saturday to relaunch its drug take-back program, which encourages people to rummage through their homes and hand over unused prescriptions.

"Lots and lots of folks have prescription pills that have either expired or they no longer need, and in the wrong hands, those are poison," acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg told NPR in an interview. "So the purpose of the program is to get those out of medicine cabinets. We can dispose of them anonymously and safely."

Nine months after the Senate Intelligence Committee published a scathing report on the U.S. torture of detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks, Amnesty International USA is demanding an investigation into the lackluster and "inconsistent" response by Justice Department officials.

The alleged inaction by federal authorities has allowed interrogators to evade responsibility for the abuse and cloaked the government's failure to punish any wrongdoers, Amnesty said.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



A federal judge has denied a bid to reduce the prison terms of two high-ranking members of a "sweeping cocaine conspiracy" that devastated Washington DC in the late 1980s.

Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth concluded the requests for early release are "unwarranted" based on the threat the men pose to the community and their roles as key players "in one of the largest drug conspiracies in the history of this city."

Accusing the Justice Department of having a "fixation on sex and salacious headlines," lawyers for Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and his wealthy donor reiterated their call for a court to dismiss bribery and fraud charges against them.

The defense teams took aim at a contention by prosecutors and FBI agents that they had uncovered some "corroboration" for claims the men may have consorted with prostitutes at luxury homes in the Dominican Republic.

A tough new report has concluded that the federal government's system for defending poor people needs to change. The nearly two-year study by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said judges who are supposed to be neutral arbiters too often put their fingers on the scales.

The report said defense lawyers for the poor who work in the federal court system need more resources to do their jobs. That means money, not just for themselves, but to pay for experts and investigators.

The Justice Department says it will beef up legal requirements for using cell-site simulators, an increasingly controversial form of surveillance technology that secretly gathers data about mobile devices.

Under the new policy, federal investigators will be required to get a warrant from a judge demonstrating probable cause, in most domestic criminal probes. Agents will need to explain to judges how the technology is being used. And they'll be directed to destroy volumes of bystanders' data "no less than once daily."

A former aide to Hillary Clinton said he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not answer questions from Congress.

The aide, Bryan Pagliano, helped set up Clinton's private email server. Clinton has faced months of scrutiny for using her home server and a private email address to conduct State Department business.

The Select Committee on Benghazi had asked Pagliano, a former State Department employee, to field questions next week. His lawyer has declined, sending a letter to Congress citing the negative political environment.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police.

"We have had four more guardians slain, and frankly our hearts are broken," the attorney general said Wednesday in remarks to a fair housing conference in Washington, D.C. "I offer the families of these officers my condolences, and I ask that all of us come together and keep them in our prayers."

California authorities have agreed to sharply limit the number of inmates held in isolation for long periods of time, a major development in the national debate about solitary confinement.

The agreement resolves a class-action lawsuit filed by prisoners who say the practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Advocates say it could change the daily lives of as many as 2,000 inmates stuck in isolation because authorities determined they had some ties to a gang.

A longtime federal judge struggled Monday over what constitutes justice for members of one of Washington, D.C.'s most notorious drug rings.

Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth pressed a public defender about the fate of Melvin Butler, a man who helped flood the city with cocaine that contributed to waves of violence in the late 1980s.

"You're saying that I can't consider the fact that he was one of the biggest drug dealers in the history of our city?" the judge asked. "Congress has tied my hands and I can't consider that?"

A 20-year member of Congress indicted on racketeering charges is challenging restrictions on his ability to meet with colleagues as "an undue and unnecessary burden...that is effectively impairing his ability" to do his job.

Last month, a federal grand jury in Philadelphia indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn., on conspiracy, bribery, and fraud counts for allegedly using political campaigns and nonprofit groups to cover personal expenses and evade campaign finance laws.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The Justice Department is trying to make it easier for Native American tribes to gain access to national crime databases. Federal authorities say the program could prevent criminals from buying guns and help keep battered women and foster children safe.

The issue of who can see information in federal criminal databases might sound boring, until one considers a deadly shooting at a high school in Washington state last year.