Recent high-profile deaths associated with heroin abuse have put the drug back in the spotlight. In fact, drug overdoses now are the No. 1 cause of accidental death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The use of heroin has gone up nationwide, doubling over the last decade.

So where is all this heroin coming from?

In our second pilot episode of “Reveal,” a new investigative reporting radio program produced in collaboration with PRX, we explore one answer to this question: Chicago’s heroin highway.

WBEZ and the Chicago Reader dove headfirst into the issue – an undertaking that turned into a yearlong investigation tracking the heroin supply chain from Mexico to Chicago and across the Midwest. In our featured segment, “Reveal” host Al Letson talks with reporters Chip Mitchell and Natalie Moore about the economics behind the heroin resurgence and how the narcotic makes its way to the streets.

Listen to the full episode below:

What solitary sounds like

The issue of solitary confinement also has hit the headlines recently. New York is revising the system in state prisons and implementing new guidelines including a ban on isolating prisoners younger than 18. But on Rikers Island – which is a city jail – many teenagers still end up alone in cells the size of a small bathroom for 23 hours a day.

And that’s not all: Most of the young inmates haven’t been convicted of a crime yet and are locked up because they can’t afford bail.

The first part of the show features prisoners who describe their time in “the box.” Reporters Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy lead The Center for Investigative Reporting’s probe into why so many teenagers at Rikers end up in solitary confinement.

Launching in tandem with this episode, an animation produced by CIR’s Michael I Schiller – with illustrations by Anna Vignet – takes an intense firsthand look at what it’s like to be in “the box.”  

YouTube video

Bonus: The video features a song by rapper Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def.

These are just two of the many investigations we tackle in this latest episode.

Want to delve deeper into these stories? Check out for videos, maps and more.

Also, be sure to follow the show and weigh in on Twitter at @Reveal and on Facebook at

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Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.