Investigative Reporters and Editors has bestowed two of its highest honors upon Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting for projects that uncovered exploitation in drug rehabs and the prolonged detention of migrant children by the U.S. government. 

The logo for American Rehab shows an illustrated figure, in black, clinging to a large cog. In the background, other cogs spin against an orange color.

American Rehab, a serial audio series that uncovered a long-standing nationwide system of unpaid labor at rehabs, won IRE’s award for audio in the large category. It was also awarded an IRE Medal, which is given out for especially excellent reporting projects. Here’s what the IRE judges said: 

Often you either have a great story or a great investigation, but rarely do you get both. “American Rehab” has all of it. Shoshana Walter’s deep dive into work-based rehab programs exposed a loophole in labor oversight and regulation that allows participants to work for little or no pay. Walter told the story through interviews with rehab participants and family members; creating a narrative of long hours, unsafe working conditions and cult-like atmospheres. She was able to connect these programs to companies that contract with them for low-cost labor, some of which are household names. No government agency tracks these programs. So the team created an online database of 300 work-rehab programs with an estimated 60,000 participants. The data gives us an unprecedented look at the scope of the issue. This investigation checked all the boxes – character, pacing and storytelling. It was technically perfect and flawlessly executed. Reveal pulled all the parts of a very complicated investigation together for listeners in a way that was ideally suited for the medium.

Listen to the podcast serial. This is the third straight year Reveal has won this category.


An illustration in a red and yellow tones shows a silhouette of a girl surrounded by hands that try to grab her, swirling papers, and a fence. In the background, a plane flies.
Molly Mendoza for Reveal

The Disappeared, a running series exposing how long-term detention in the United States changes migrant children, won IRE’s FOI Award, a medal given to work that furthers open records and open government. Here’s what the judges had to say: 

A masterful investigation that exposed systematic harm and laid bare the consequences by piecing together how they had played out in the case of a girl who had been misled to think her family had abandoned her. Melissa Lewis’ data analysis of records, obtained through the news outlet’s litigation, gave the public an unprecedented look at the lives of thousands of children, exposing that many had been detained for long periods. Reporter Aura Bogado’s relentless quest to find out what happened to a girl who had been swallowed up by the system is both admirable and expertly told. It isn’t easy to include first person in an investigation and Bogado’s inclusion of herself in the story is pitch-perfect.

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series and listen to the podcast. Reveal remains in litigation with the government in an attempt to receive the full scope of the records sought in the lawsuit. This project was also a finalist in the large audio category. 

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