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WKMS Rings in the New Year with a Week of Special Programming

Erin Wilson/Reveal
WKMS celebrates the new year with a week of special programming from PRX and the BBC beginning Monday, January 4th.

WKMS celebrates the start of 2021 with a week of special programs. From an infamous drug rehabilitation facility to a recap of the sounds, emotions, and music of the previous year, these programs from the BBC and PRX reflect on the past and how it might shape the year ahead. 

See the WKMS New Year special programming below:

Monday, January 4th 
11 am: A Shortcut Through 2020 from PRX

Remembering the most incredible and isolating time of our lives with sounds, emotions, and music pulled from the past year. A Shortcut Through Time celebrates those we've lost and what we all went  through from Adam Driver, Alex Trebek, Anderson Cooper, and many, many more. 

12 pm: BBC Correspondents' Look Ahead

You would be forgiven for missing some of the major news stories in 2020. A U.S. election with a record turnout and a president who refused to concede; a pandemic which has stopped everybody in their tracks, bringing an economic crisis that has impacted the world like no other; and the death of a man in America which led to widespread protests and a call for racial discrimination to be tackled. What will a divided America look like? Will the pandemic teach us anything about the way we live? Will climate change finally be back on the agenda? So many big questions, but we have some of our big hitters here to provide plenty of answers. 

Tuesday, January 5th 
11 am:
American Rehab 1: A Desperate Call from PRX

Reveal's American Rehab exposes how a treatment for drug addiction has turned tens of thousands of people into an unpaid shadow workforce. In Episode 1, we meet Penny Rawlings, who is relieved to get her brother into a drug rehab at a place called Cenikor. She doesn't realize that getting him out of treatment is going to be the bigger problem. 

Cenikor's model has its roots in Synanon: a revolutionary, first-of-its-kind rehab that started in the 1950s on a California beach. Its charismatic leader, Charles Dederich, mesmerized the nation by claiming to have developed a cure for drug addiction. But as it spread across the country, Dederich wanted the rehab to turn into something else: a business. 

12 pm: American Rehab 2: A Venomous Snake

By the end of the 1960s, Synanon was a widely respected drug rehab with a celebrated treatment program. It had intake centers and commune-style rehabs all over the country. It subsisted by turning members into unpaid workers who hustled donations and ran Synanon businesses. As the money poured in, Synanon's founder, Charles Dederich, transitioned the group from a rehab into an "experimental society."

Dederich instituted a series of increasingly authoritarian rules on members: he banned sugar, dissolved marriages, separated children from their parents, and forced vasectomies. Synanon ultimately became a religion, with Dederich as its violent and vengeful leader. 

Wednesday, January 6th
11 am:
American Rehab 3: Cowboy Conman

He was a liar, a killer, and a wannabe country music singer. As Luke Austin moved from state to state and prison to prison, he created a persona. He claimed to have toured with Johnny Cash and made personal friends with Elvis Presley. By the early '60s, he'd killed a man and joined a Synanon chapter inside the Nevada State Prison. 

Then in 1967, inside another prison, Austin created his own authoritarian rehab system modeled on Synanon and changed its name to Cenikor. Reveal's Laura Starecheski unravels the secret history of Cenikor and how Austin's dream of country music stardom nearly destroyed what would later become one of the largest work-based rehabs in the country. 

12 pm: American Rehab 4: Reagan with the Snap

In the late 1970s, the drug rehab Cenikor was down and out. Reporters Laura Starecheski and Shoshana Walter explain how Ken Barun, a former rehab participant, brought Cenikor back from the brink, with the help of NFL football pad inventor Byron Donzies. 

Cenikor's rehab workers started manufacturing the football pads, for no pay, and eventually would supply every single team in the NFL. During a 1983 campaign stop, this boot-strapping rehab caught the attention of President Ronald Reagan, who gave Cenikor his blessing. And later, when Reagan's harsh drug enforcement policies filled jails and prisons with people who used drugs, a prison-to-rehab pipeline was born. 

Thursday, January 7th
11 am:
American Rehab 5: The Work Cure

One man's journey into Cenikor leads to punishments and almost two years of back breaking labor. The program will change him. But can it help Chris Koon put his addiction behind him? 

Koon chose Cenikor as an alternative to jail and a way to deal with his addiction to heroin. But when he walked through the doors of the treatment facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Koon found himself in a strange world of elaborate rules and humiliating punishments. 

12 pm: American Rehab 6: Shadow Workforce 

Since beginning the American Rehab series, listeners have asked if rehabs are allowed to do this. Can they make participants work without pay as long as they're providing housing and treatment? Does the work pay for the therapy?

This question was raised by another 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. 

Friday, January 8th
11 am: Sound Opinion's Best Albums of 2020 from PRX

The host of Sound Opinions Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, count down their favorite albums released in 2020.

12 pm: Springsteen: Writers' Favorites from PRX

Producer Paul Ingles gathers seven top music writers to talk about their favorite Bruce Springsteen tracks from the music star's now six-decade career. The program opens with a track from Springsteen's newest album, Letter to You (due for release October 23rd), then moves through a seamless suite of conversation and music from Springsteen's catalogue. 

This program is a compilation drawn from a larger, three-hour series that Ingles will be releasing around the release of the new Springsteen album, his first with the E Street Band in six years. 

Listen to the WKMS special programming on-air or online at You can also ask your smart speaker to "play WKMS."