Picture stepping into a drug rehab. You’re looking for treatment, but instead, you get hard work for no pay. For decades, this type of rehab has quietly spread across the country. How are rehabs allowed to do this?
Some organizations argue that participants can work without pay as long as they’re provided with housing and treatment. This issue was raised by a cultish organization that recruited dropouts from the hippie movement and had them sew bedazzled designer jean jackets. The clothes became a Hollywood fashion trend, and the unpaid labor propelled a case all the way to the Supreme Court.
The federal government doesn’t track work-based rehabs, so reporter Shoshana Walter spent a year counting them herself. She learned that work-based rehabs are present across the entire country. And the coronavirus pandemic has made the opioid epidemic even more deadly. As one crisis slams into another, we look at how work-based rehabs are turning participants into unpaid essential workers.
This episode originally aired as part of the American Rehab series in 2020.
Lead reporter: Shoshana Walter | Reporter and series producer: Laura Starecheski | Reporter and producer: Ike Sriskandarajah | Contributing producer: Katharine Mieszkowski | Contributing reporter: Amy Julia Harris | Associate producers: Najib Aminy and Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Episode art: Eren Wilson | Art direction and layout: Gabe Hongsdusit | Original score, mix, sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda | Post-production assistance: Claire Mullen | Fact-checker: Rosemarie Ho | Series editor: Brett Myers | Editors: Esther Kaplan and Andy Donohue | Editor-in-chief: Matt Thompson | Executive producer for tv and documentary: Amanda Pike | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Al Letson
Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.