Created by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, Reveal is public radios first one-hour weekly radio show and podcast dedicated to investigative reporting. Credible, fact based and without a partisan agenda, Reveal combines the power and artistry of driveway moment storytelling with data-rich reporting on critically important issues. The result is stories that inform and inspire, arming our listeners with information to right injustices, hold the powerful accountable and improve lives.Reveal is hosted by Al Letson and showcases the award-winning work of CIR and newsrooms large and small across the nation. In a radio and podcast market crowded with choices, Reveal focuses on important and often surprising stories that illuminate the world for our listeners.

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Havana Syndrome

A sharp sound. Followed by body numbness. Difficulty speaking. Extreme head pain. Since 2016, U.S. officials across the world – in Cuba, China and Russia – have reported experiencing the sudden onset of an array of eerie symptoms. Reporters Adam Entous and Jon Lee Anderson try to make sense of this confusing illness that has come to be called Havana syndrome. This episode is built from reporting for an eight-part VICE World News podcast series by the same name.   The reporters begin by tracking down one of the first people to report Havana syndrome symptoms, a CIA officer working in Cuba. This “patient zero” explains the ways Cuban intelligence surveil and harass American spies working on the island and his own experience of suddenly being struck with a mysterious, painful condition. When he reports the illness to his bosses at the CIA, he learns that other U.S. officials on the island are experiencing the same thing.   A CIA doctor sees reports from the field about this strange condition happening in Cuba. He’s sent to Havana to investigate the cause of the symptoms and whether they may stem from a mysterious sound recorded by patient zero. But during his first night on the island, the CIA doctor falls ill with the same syndrome he is there to investigate. In the third segment, the reporters head to Havana to visit the sites where people reported the onset of their symptoms, looking for answers. The team shares reporting-informed theories about who and what could be causing Havana syndrome.  This is an update of an episode that originally aired in April 2023. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Locked Up: The Prison Labor That Built Business Empires

After the Civil War, a new form of slavery took hold in the U.S. and lasted more than 60 years. Associated Press reporters Margie Mason and Robin McDowell investigate the chilling history of how Southern states imprisoned mainly Black men, often for minor crimes, and then leased them out to private companies – for years, even decades, at a time. The team talks with the descendant of a man imprisoned in the Lone Rock stockade in Tennessee nearly 140 years ago, where people as young as 12 worked under inhumane conditions in coal mines and inferno-like ovens used to produce iron. This system of forced prison labor enriched the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co. – at the cost of prisoners’ lives.  At the state park that sits on the former site of the Lone Rock stockade, relics from the hellish prison are buried beneath the soil. Archeologist Camille Westmont has found thousands of artifacts, such as utensils and the plates prisoners ate off. She has also created a database listing the names of those sent to Lone Rock. A team of volunteers are helping her, including a woman reckoning with her own ancestor’s involvement in this corrupt system and the wealth her family benefited from.    The United States Steel Corp. helped build bridges, railroads and towering skyscrapers across America. But the company also relied on forced prison labor. After U.S. Steel took over Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad in 1907, the industrial giant used prison labor for at least five more years. During that time, more than 100 men died while working in its massive coal mining operation in Alabama. U.S. Steel has misrepresented this dark chapter of its history. And it has never apologized for its use of forced labor or the lives lost. The reporters push the company to answer questions about its past and engage with communities near the former mines.  This is an update of an episode that originally aired in September 2022. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter,Facebook and Instagram

In Bondage to the Law

On a summer night in 1995, a sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed in a hotel parking lot in Birmingham, Alabama. When investigators arrived at the scene, they found no eyewitnesses and almost no evidence pointing to the shooter.  Detectives ultimately zeroed in on a man named Toforest Johnson, who on that same night was with friends at a nightclub miles away. Johnson was tried twice for the murder and eventually convicted on the testimony of an “earwitness” – a woman who claimed to have overheard Johnson confessing to the crime. He was sentenced to death and has spent more than 25 years on Alabama’s death row. In 2019, investigative journalist Beth Shelburne began covering the case, finding details that cast major doubts about Johnson’s guilt. This week, in partnership with Lava for Good and the Earwitness podcast, hosted by Shelburne, we tell the story of Johnson’s case. First, Shelburne digs into the night of the murder and speaks to the lead investigator on the case.  Then, in conversation with host Al Letson, Shelburne walks through how Johnson was convicted, despite a lack of evidence and a solid alibi. She also shares the latest turn in Johnson’s case: Questions about the credibility of the earwitness have surfaced in the last few years, leading many Alabama politicians and attorneys to call for a new trial.   Alabama's prison system doesn't allow people on death row to talk to journalists, so Shelburne visits the people closest to Johnson: his kids. They share memories and their hopes for their father’s case. She also has a conversation with an unlikely supporter of a new trial: one of the people who had a hand in sending Johnson to death row.  Click here to hear the full Earwitness podcast. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

We Regret to Inform You

Bruce Praet is a well-known name in law enforcement, especially across California. He co-founded a company called Lexipol that contracts with more than 95% of police departments in the state and offers its clients trainings and ready-made policies. In one of Praet’s training webinars, posted online, he offers a piece of advice that policing experts have called inhumane. It’s aimed at protecting officers and their departments from lawsuits. After police kill someone, they are supposed to notify the family. Praet advises officers to use that interaction as an opportunity. Instead of delivering the news of the death immediately, he suggests first asking about the person who was killed to get as much information as possible.  Reporter Brian Howey started looking into this advice when he was with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. He found that officers have been using this tactic across California, and the information families disclosed before they knew their relative was killed affected their lawsuits later. In this hour, Howey interviews families that have been on the receiving end of this controversial policing tactic, explaining their experience and the lasting impact. Howey travels to Santa Ana, where he meets a City Council member leading an effort to end Lexipol’s contract in his city. And in a parking lot near Fresno, Howey tracks down Praet and tries to interview him about the consequences of his advice.  Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us onTwitter, Facebook and Instagram

The Welfare-to-Work Industrial Complex

“Get a job!” That sums up our current cash welfare system in a nutshell. Ever since so-called welfare reform in the 1990s, the system has been based on the idea that welfare recipients must be doing some kind of work or job-readiness activity to receive government assistance. It’s a system that plays on what Americans have long wanted to believe – that all it takes to move out of poverty is a can-do attitude and hard work. Now, there is a growing chorus of politicians who argue that even more programs that help people in need should have more and tougher work requirements attached. In June, Republicans successfully fought to create new work requirements for food assistance under the debt ceiling deal. In this episode, Reveal partners with The Uncertain Hour podcast from Marketplace to explore the lucrative industry built on welfare-to-work policies. Critics say these for-profit welfare companies have cultivated their own cycle of dependency on the federal government. Krissy Clark from The Uncertain Hour takes listeners into America’s welfare-to-work system. We meet a struggling mother of two in Milwaukee who hits hard times and turns to a local welfare office for help – a welfare office outsourced to a private for-profit company. Inside, staff preach the power of work, place people into unpaid “work experience” and enforce work requirements for welfare recipients, all in the name of teaching self-sufficiency. But who’s set to benefit most, that struggling mother or the for-profit company she turned to? Then, Clark has a frank conversation with the founder of America Works, one of the first for-profit welfare-to-work companies in the country. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

America Goes Psychedelic, Again

Psychedelic drugs have been illegal for 50 years, but they’re trickling back into the mainstream because they show promise in helping treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health challenges. We begin the hour with reporter Jonathan A. Davis visiting Psychedelic Science 2023, the largest-ever conference on psychedelic drugs. It’s put on by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, an organization dedicated to legalizing MDMA (also known as ecstasy or molly) and other psychedelic drugs. Research shows that MDMA-assisted therapy can help treat depression and PTSD, and it’s moving toward approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Psychedelics were studied in the 1950s and ’60s as mental health treatments, but the war on drugs put a stop to research. Now, these drugs are gaining bipartisan support from politicians looking for solutions to the mental health crisis among veterans.  Then Reveal’s Michael I Schiller visits a group of veterans who are not waiting for psychedelic-assisted therapy to be approved by the federal government. They’ve joined a church founded by an Iraq War veteran who uses psychedelics as religious sacraments. Schiller accompanies them on a retreat in rural Texas, where they share the depths of their post-traumatic stress and the relief they’ve felt after psychedelic treatments. He also explores the risks involved in taking these drugs.  We close with an intimate audio diary from a woman in Oakland, California, who’s going through therapy with the one psychedelic drug that can be legally prescribed currently in the U.S.: ketamine. Ketamine started out as an anesthetic, but researchers found it can help with treatment-resistant depression when used in tandem with talk therapy. Ketamine can be dangerous if abused, but it also has helped people find relief from mental health issues. This story was produced by Davis. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram Check out independent producer Jonathan A. Davis’s work here

Cashing in on Troubled Teens

The first time Trina Edwards was locked in a psychiatric hospital for children, she was 12 years old. She was sure a foster parent would pick her up the next day. But instead, Trina would end up spending years cycling in and out of North Star Behavioral Health in Anchorage, Alaska.  At times, she was ready to be discharged, but Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services couldn’t find anywhere else to put her – so Trina would stay locked in at North Star, where she would experience violent restraints and periods of seclusion. Then, shortly before her 15th birthday, Trina was sent to another facility 3,000 miles away: Copper Hills Youth Center in Utah.  Both North Star and Copper Hills are owned by Universal Health Services, a publicly traded, Fortune 500 company that is the nation’s largest psychiatric hospital chain. Trina’s experience is emblematic of a larger problem: a symbiotic relationship between failing child welfare agencies, which don’t have enough foster homes for all the kids in custody, and large for-profit companies like Universal Health Services, which have beds to fill.  This hour, Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie exposes how  Universal Health Services is profiting off foster kids who get admitted to its facilities, despite government and media investigations raising alarming allegations about patient care that the company denies. This hour deals with child abuse, sexual assault and suicide – and may not be appropriate for all listeners. Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

From Victim to Suspect

Nicole Chase was a young mom with a daughter to support when she took a job at a local restaurant in Canton, Connecticut. She liked the work and was good at her job. But the place turned out to be more like a frat house than a quaint roadside sandwich spot. And the crude behavior kept escalating – until one day she says her boss went too far and she turned to the local police for help. What happened next would lead to a legal battle that dragged on for years. The U.S. Supreme Court would even get involved. Reveal reporter Rachel de Leon spent years taking a close look at cases across the country in which people reported sexual assaults to police, only to find themselves investigated. In this hour, we explore one case and hear how police interrogated an alleged perpetrator, an alleged victim and each other.  De Leon’s investigation is also the subject of a documentary, “Victim/Suspect,” now streaming on Netflix.   Support Reveal’s journalism at Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get the scoop on new episodes at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram