American Rehab: Cowboy Conman

Jul 16, 2020

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.