Reveal identified at least 300 drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in 44 states that required participants to work long hours without pay, in likely violation of labor law. Some work for rehab-run businesses; others for outside companies such as Walmart, Exxon and Shell. The participants receive room and board and in some cases a small stipend or allowance typically amounting to less than $20 per week – well below the minimum wage.
Look up the work-based programs in your state below. You can search by state or program name, or you can check for a company name to see if it has benefited from rehab labor.
This is not a comprehensive directory. No federal or state agency collects this data, and most of these programs are unlicensed, making information about them difficult to obtain. To measure the scope of this problem, Reveal attempted to survey several hundred programs that we learned might require unpaid work. Only a fraction agreed to answer questions. To fill in the gaps, Reveal interviewed hundreds of current and former employees, rehab participants and state regulators and reviewed thousands of pages of tax records, financial documents, and wage and injury reports. We also documented companies that use these unpaid rehab workers. Some companies said they were unaware of their connection to the unpaid work, thanks to layers of subcontractors, or denied it altogether; other companies that used rehab labor at one point have since severed ties.
This listing was compiled over the course of the past year; to report recent program status changes or information about a work-based rehab you don’t see here, send Reveal a tip to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will Carless, Amy Julia Harris, Sohyeon Hwang, Quinn Lewis and Heidi Swillinger contributed to this directory.
Shoshana Walter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @shoeshine.
Shoshana Walter is a reporter for Reveal, covering criminal justice. She and reporter Amy Julia Harris exposed how courts across the country are sending defendants to rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry. Their work was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting. It also won the Knight Award for Public Service, a Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting, and an Edward R. Murrow Award, and was a finalist for the Selden Ring, IRE and Livingston Awards. It led to numerous government investigations, two criminal probes and five federal class-action lawsuits alleging slavery, labor violations and fraud.
Walter's investigation on America's armed security guard industry revealed how armed guard licenses have been handed out to people with histories of violence, even people barred by courts from owning guns. Walter and reporter Ryan Gabrielson won the 2015 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for national reporting based on the series, which prompted new laws and an overhaul of California’s regulatory system. For her 2016 investigation about the plight of "trimmigrants," marijuana workers in California's Emerald Triangle, Walter embedded herself in illegal mountain grows and farms. There, she encountered an epidemic of sex abuse and human trafficking in the industry – and a criminal justice system focused more on the illegal drugs. The story prompted legislation, a criminal investigation and grass-roots efforts by the community, including the founding of a worker hotline and safe house.
Walter began her career as a police reporter for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, and previously covered violent crime and the politics of policing in Oakland, California, for The Bay Citizen. Her narrative nonfiction as a local reporter garnered a national Sigma Delta Chi Award and a Gold Medal for Public Service from the Florida Society of News Editors. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she has been a Dart Center Ochberg fellow for journalism and trauma at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim fellow in criminal justice journalism. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.
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