Two families and an unthinkable crime at summer camp that binds them together. A new podcast from WBUR, Boston’s NPR, and The Marshall Project explores America’s opaque parole system through a 1986 murder case and asks: How much time in prison is enough? Who gets to decide? And, when someone commits a terrible crime, what does redemption look like?
Jacob Wideman Says 'Vindictive' Arizona Officials Violated His Rights
In August, lawyers representing Jacob Wideman argued before a judge in Arizona that state officials treated him in a “constitutionally impermissible” way when they revoked his parole more than six years ago.
Lawyers for the parole board and the state corrections department said Wideman was trying to avoid following directions and therefore could not be trusted to be free.
In this update, we fill you in on the hearing and how it could set the stage for further legal action in Wideman’s case.
26/09/2023 • 14 minutes 4 seconds
Violation Presents: Ear Hustle
Thank you for listening to Violation. We thought you might like to hear about another podcast — Ear Hustle, a member of Radiotopia from PRX.
Ear Hustle shares stories about what life is really like in prison, both inside and after you get out.
Season 12 started on Sep. 6, and the show will also be marking its 100th episode in December.
You can find Ear Hustle wherever you get your podcasts and at earhustlesq.com.
13/09/2023 • 40 minutes 14 seconds
A message from Team Violation
Thank you for listening and joining us on this incredible journey of exploring America’s opaque parole system through a terrible murder.
We’re eager to know how this journey was for you.. because your feedback will help us serve you better.
So… can you take a few minutes and fill out a survey for us? It would be a HUGE help. You can get it at wbur.org/survey.
Thanks. We really appreciate it.
26/07/2023 • 1 minute 3 seconds
No Safe Place
Two months after Jacob Wideman was arrested at work and brought back to prison — for failing to make an appointment with a psychologist on a particular day, as directed by his parole officer — he faced the Arizona parole board again.
The board had to make a formal finding: Did Jake violate the conditions of his parole by not making that appointment? And, if so, should he stay in prison or be returned to the community?
Parole revocation hearings tend to be routine affairs. But, as this episode shows, Jake’s hearing was far from routine.
Ultimately, the parole board voted to keep Jake in prison, where he remains, possibly for life.
In the final episode of Violation, we discuss what happens now and what Jake’s legal options are. And we return to thorny dilemmas about the criminal justice system: When someone commits a terrible crime, as Jake did, is there anything they can do to prove they deserve to be free again? How does the parole system he
03/05/2023 • 59 minutes 27 seconds
'Your Life Is About To Change'
Six months after Jacob Wideman was released from prison on home arrest, he appeared before the parole board for a routine check-in hearing. His parole officer told the board that Jake was doing well: Jake’s employers and therapists gave him positive reviews, as did the director at his halfway house and the landlord at his apartment complex.
But other people were coming to a different conclusion.
About a week before the hearing, Jake’s parole officer had told him that he had received complaints that Jake had committed numerous violations of the terms of his parole — violations that, if he had committed them, could cost him his freedom.
The officer also told him something that startled him: A private investigator could be watching him.
“It brought home to me the people who didn't want me to be out were keeping an exceptionally close eye on me, and that, you know, they were willing to go to some pretty drastic lengths to try to find ways to ge
26/04/2023 • 46 minutes 57 seconds
In 2016, after 30 years behind bars and seven hearings in front of the Arizona parole board, Jacob Wideman was released from prison.
Being on parole is a strange hybrid between prison and freedom. You’re still technically serving your sentence, but in the community. When Jake first got out, he was on home arrest, a strict version of parole. He had to wear an ankle monitor so the state could track his whereabouts, and he couldn’t leave his house without permission.
Jake also had to follow more than two dozen separate parole conditions, among them: no driving; no contact with minors, no drinking alcohol. Not following any one of the rules could land him back in prison on a moment’s notice. And the vague catchall condition, “I will follow all directives I am given, either verbal or written.”
This last one would come back to haunt him.
On any given day, a quarter of incarcerated people nationwide are there for breaking the rules of their parol
19/04/2023 • 38 minutes 2 seconds
How do you build a meaningful life in prison, knowing you might never be free? What if whether you might one day be free hinges on your ability to build a meaningful life in prison? In Part 4 of “Violation," we follow Jacob Wideman’s decades-long journey through the Arizona prison system and hear how he prepared to tell his life story to the parole board.
Two years after he murdered Eric Kane, Jake was transferred from county jail to the Arizona Department of Corrections to begin serving a life sentence. At 18 years old, he was thrust into a world where the only way to feel safe was through physical aggression and bravado. He had many years of practice pretending he wasn’t suffering from mental health struggles in his youth, but now, Jake had to push those struggles even further out of sight as he faced a series of challenges in prison, each more difficult than the last.
“Heart test” is prison shorthand for proving yourself when you first arrive in the facility —
12/04/2023 • 47 minutes 42 seconds
Life Without Parole
Imagine the worst day of your life, when you did the one thing you are most ashamed of. Now imagine having to convince a panel of strangers — who suspect you might be lying — how sorry you are. After years of preparing for this moment, you get only minutes to make your case. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: The rest of your life depends on whether or not the strangers believe you.
This is how people seeking parole often describe the experience. Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, describes parole hearings as “a trap for the unwary,” where those who are mentally unprepared for the emotional complexities of the process can find themselves at a grave disadvantage.
Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of people appear before parole boards asking to be released from prison. These boards play an outsized role in the criminal justice system — how much time someone actually spends in prison, or in some cases, whether they get out a
05/04/2023 • 35 minutes 15 seconds
Not long after Jacob Wideman murdered his summer camp roommate, Eric Kane, in 1986 — seemingly with no motive — a question emerged in the breathless news coverage of the tragedy: Was Jake a “bad seed”?
It was no accident that some reporters latched onto the phrase. After all, it was plucked straight from perhaps the most famous book written by Jake’s own father, acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, about his family’s experience with violence, trauma and incarceration.
But John Wideman wasn’t writing about his son Jake when he used the phrase “bad seed” in his seminal memoir, “Brothers and Keepers.” The book was published in 1984, two years before Jake murdered Eric. Instead, John was writing about his own younger brother Robby, Jake’s uncle, who years earlier had participated in a robbery that went very wrong. A man died, and although Robby didn’t pull the trigger, he was sentenced to life in prison.
“The bad seed. The good seed. Mommy’s been saying
29/03/2023 • 41 minutes 11 seconds
Two Sons, Lost
Why did Jacob Wideman murder Eric Kane?
In 1986, the two 16-year-olds were rooming together on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon when Jacob fatally — and inexplicably — stabbed Eric.
That night, Jacob went on the run, absconding with the camp’s rented Oldsmobile and thousands of dollars in traveler’s checks. Before long, he turned himself in and eventually confessed to the killing — although he couldn’t explain what drove him to do it.
It would take years of therapy and medical treatment behind bars before Jacob could begin to understand what was going through his mind that night. It would take even longer to try to explain it to his family, to his victim’s family and to parole board members, who would decide whether he deserved to be free ever again.
This debut episode of “Violation,” a podcast from WBUR and The Marshall Project, introduces the story of the crime that has bound two families together for decades.
22/03/2023 • 34 minutes 20 seconds
In 1986, while on a summer camp trip to the Grand Canyon, 16-year-old Jacob Wideman fatally stabbed his roommate, Eric Kane. Jacob confessed to the murder, but couldn’t explain why he did it.
The crime devastated both boys’ families. For the Widemans, it was also a haunting echo from their family history.
Just two years earlier, Jacob’s father, acclaimed author John Edgar Wideman, had published "Brothers and Keepers," a memoir that grappled with how his brother, Jacob’s uncle Robby Wideman, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a fatal robbery. How could another inexplicable crime happen twice in two generations?
Jacob served decades behind bars for killing Eric Kane. Then in 2016, an Arizona parole board granted him house arrest. Jacob’s release outraged his victim’s family.
It wasn’t long before Jacob was back before the board, fighting again for his freedom.
Violation, a new podcast from The Marshall Project and WBUR, te