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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards


Finalist in True Crime & Documentary Podcast


Gooned is a podcast about the Troubled Teen Industry (TTI), a network of profit-incentivized behavior modification facilities for youth ranging from wilderness programs to therapeutic boarding schools. This industry's predatory tactics capitalize on families in crisis and victimize hundreds of thousands of children and teens every year.

Gooned tells the unheard stories of survivors, parents, former staff members, and activists who reveal the dark truth behind a well-kept facade reaching into the public school, family court, and juvenile justice systems. The series features an undercover investigation that exposes admissions directors, program administrators, and “goons,” the legal kidnappers who snatch children from their beds and transport them thousands of miles from home.

The Gooned podcast seeks to give voices to survivors whose stories have gone unheard, and to reveal through an undercover investigation the processes involved in enrolling and transporting a child into the TTI, an important contribution to the growing conversation about this industry that has never before been publicly revealed. Through these stories and investigations, Gooned contributes new and important information about this far-reaching and influential industry that has existed and persisted for decades.


Strategy and Execution

Gooned is an independent production, produced in a grassroots effort to distribute effective and comprehensive reporting about the Troubled Teen Industry. The production team behind this project, and the project’s budget, were small, which presented challenges throughout pre-production, post-production, and distribution. 

Our production team drew from the courageous and vibrant survivor community online and within our own personal circles to commission independent creators, production team members, and small individual donations to fund the production. By creating trust within this community throughout production, the Gooned team was able to coordinate with preeminent activist, legislative, and survivor organizations like Unsilenced, as well as a wealth of independent creators and individual survivors, to contribute interviews, production skills, and wide-scale distribution within and outside of the survivor community. 

Despite being an independent production, our grassroots distribution and promotion plan saw the series featured in The Guardian and LA Book Review’s Podcast Review, among others, and reach listeners even beyond the existing survivor community. By pooling community resources and drawing on the passion and wherewithal of the survivor and activist community, Gooned was able to finance, plan, and execute an undercover investigation that saw the show’s host and producer travel from Los Angeles to Idaho to attend an industry conference for admissions directors, program facilitators, and lobbyists to record over 10 hours of tape used in the show. The production team conducted more than 20 interviews with survivors, former staff members, families, activists, and experts from across decades and backgrounds, dealing with anonymity concerns while adhering to strict ethical principles, fastidious fact-checking, and comprehensive reporting, and created the scripts, sound, music, and finished episodes and series entirely independently. Gooned is not only a well-produced, impactful and important deep-dive, but one that was planned, executed, and distributed by maximizing minimal resources and drawing from the existing community.



Since its release, Gooned has been featured in nearly a dozen publications, including The Guardian and LA Book Review’s Podcast Review. Not only has the series received positive press coverage, but scores of survivors have expressed that Gooned made them feel seen, heard, and understood. For decades, TTI survivors have been disbelieved and their stories stigmatized – the impact that Gooned has had on these survivors, galvanizing them to speak out and overcome the shame long associated with their experiences, is the biggest reason we consider the series successful. In addition to a large listenership and press coverage, Gooned has given voice to survivors, some of whom had been silenced for decades, which has been heartening and humbling for the production team and for those interviewed in the series. 

Seeing and hearing positive reception from survivors, families, and other impacted groups has been the most rewarding part of releasing this podcast, and shows that the series was much needed.



Video for Gooned

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Gooned Podcast


Entry Credits