Dustin Dwyer


Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

In 2010, Dustin left journalism to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his daughter Irene is turning two, he's happy to be back at Michigan Radio, where there are far fewer temper-tantrums. 

Ways to Connect

Prison Policy Institute, States of Incarceration: A Global Context / Prison Policy Institute


I came across this chart from the Prison Policy Initiative, which ranks all the states' incarceration rates and compares them to other countries throughout the world. None of the states fare particularly well. Michigan's rate is higher than the national average, and it's higher than every other country in the world (though not nearly as bad as some other states, such as Louisiana). 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

There is an epidemic of drug use in Michigan, and in the rest of the country, involving a class of drugs called opiates – think Vicodin, Oxycontin or heroin.

In Michigan, at least 3,000 people have died  from these drugs since 2005. But even that number doesn’t tell the whole story. The actual number of deaths is likely much higher.

How much higher? We don't actually know. 

By Leffler, Warren K., photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last weekend, This American Life ran a powerful, heart-wrenching story of how segregation continues to haunt the American education system. If you haven't yet heard it, you should definitely make some time to listen. TAL billed it as the first of two stories they have on the topic. So, while I was sitting around waiting for the second part to come out, I decided to dive a little deeper into some of the research behind last week's story. 

John Guilfoil Public Relations LLC/ JGPR.Net

This is the third part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on the air today at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., or catch up online. Part one is here. Part two is here.  

It’s been a decade. Maybe more. Thousands have died. Many more had their lives destroyed. It’s been a national epidemic, but Michigan has been especially hard hit.

It’s an epidemic of drug addiction to opiates.

While Michigan has been one of the worst places for the epidemic, it has not been a place on the forefront of finding solutions.

Eugene Atkins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for selling heroin that led to a young man's death.
courtesy of the Atkins family

 This is the second part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Part one is here.

On October 27th, 1986, President Reagan signed a new law to fight drug use in America. Buried within that law were new penalties for those convicted of selling drugs. The premise behind these penalties was to get the most serious drug offenders off the streets, and send a message that dealing drugs in America is a crime that does not pay.

Eugene Atkins never got that message.

courtesy of Mary DeBoer.

This is the first part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Or, subscribe to the State of Opportunity podcast on iTunes to hear each part as it’s released.

Mary DeBoer still remembers how it felt in the winter of 2004.

“Everything was fine,” she tells me, sitting at her kitchen table as the sun goes down behind her. “There was no threat or scariness that something was imminent, that something was going to happen.”

She remembers sitting at this same table, every night for family dinner. Every night at 6 o’clock sharp. No matter what else was going on, Mary, her husband and her three children would sit down here for dinner. Until their last night together, on December 14th, 2004.

Our friends at WBEZ partnered with the daily herald for an analysis of 10 years' worth of Illinois elementary school test score data. What they found is a relentless, strong correlation between test scores and parent income. Schools with the most students living in poverty had the lowest test scores, and vice versa. The correlation between test scores and parental income held for every income group, and it remained very consistent over time. Click through to see the graphs.


Last October, the Harvard Business Review published an essay on Hacking Tech's Diversity Problem.

The NPR Ed team asked reporters from 14 member stations for stories to help explain the nationwide rise in graduation rates. My colleague Jennifer Guerra contributed a story that may sound familiar to State of Opportunity listeners. Click through to see the app, and see Jennifer's work.


Over the weekend, The Washington Post published an analysis of every shooting death at the hands of a police officer since the start of the year. The Post found that the number of officer-involved shooting deaths is approaching 400 nationwide for the year, a number that's about twice as high as what you'd expect if you believe the existing statistics on deaths caused by police officers (most people don't). 

The Post has plenty of details within the numbers worth checking out, but still the most surprising part of this analysis is that it had to be done at all. Even with this analysis now available, it's clear that the number of things we don't know about violence involving police officers far outnumbers the things we do know.