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'Violation' podcast: a horrible crime, and the two families it still haunts

"Violation" reporter and host Beth Schwartzapfel, of The Marshall Project. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
"Violation" reporter and host Beth Schwartzapfel, of The Marshall Project. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

I first heard about Jacob Wideman 15 years ago. I had long admired the work of Jake's father, writer John Edgar Wideman. Decades before "mass incarceration" became a household phrase, his books explored the indignity of the American criminal justice system.

It was a system his family crashed into headlong in 1986, when Jake Wideman killed his summer camp roommate, Eric Kane. Both boys were 16.

Now, over 30 years later, the consequences continue to haunt Jake Wideman, his family and the Kane family. My new podcast, Violation, introduces the story of how that horrible crime has connected these two families for decades.

Over seven episodes, this series will unspool the story of what happens to Jake 25 years after he begins serving a life sentence in Arizona, when he first appears before the state's parole board. And what happens when, after he's finally granted parole, he's yanked back in.

If someone was wrongfully convicted, the path forward is clear: vacate their conviction and let them go.

But if someone was rightfully convicted — when someone commits a terrible crime — then what? How much time in prison is enough? And who gets to decide?

Violation explores a complex story of suffering and retribution, as well as power and privilege. Jake's case takes all the dynamics at play in a typical murder case and cranks the volume way, way up. It's about victims' rights, political influence, race, privilege, mental health, senseless violence — and how mass incarceration has morphed into mass supervision, with all the same pitfalls and politics.

You'll hear Jake Wideman tell his story in his own voice, gathered in dozens of hours of interviews and woven throughout the episodes. John Wideman also talks about Jake and reads passages from his books — the first time John has ever talked publicly about his son.

We hope you'll subscribe to and follow Violation, a partnership between WBUR and The Marshall Project. New episodes drop every Wednesday wherever you listen to podcasts.


Beth Schwartzapfel Host and Reporter
Beth Schwartzapfel is the host and reporter of Violation, a podcast from WBUR and The Marshall Project.



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