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 parole or probation. These behaviors are called technical violations and can include things like moving to a new apartment without permission or failing to attend a drug treatment program.
You may have heard the term “mass incarceration” — this idea that the U.S. locks up more people than any country in the world. But lately, scholars and activists have also been talking about “mass supervision.” There are almost two million people in U.S. prisons, but there are almost four million people on probation or parole.
In Part Five of the “Violation” podcast, we examine what life is like for the millions of people on parole in the U.S., and describe what happened when Jacob Wideman was on parole. Jake didn’t know it when he was first released, but his freedom would only last nine months — and there were people on the outside working to put him back inside.
Listen to new episodes each Wednesday, through the player at the top of the page, or wherever you get your podcasts. The “Violation” series will also be available on The Marshall Project’s site and on Here & Now from NPR and WBUR.Additional materials:
Fortune Society TV: A Spotlight on Mass Supervision: Rethinking Technical Violations
How Supervision Violations Are Filling Prisons and Burdening Budgets by The Council of State Governments Justice Center
Arizona Department of Corrections: Conditions of Jacob Wideman’s supervision
Beth Schwartzapfel: Hey folks, just a heads up. This episode mentions suicide and suicidal thoughts. If you’re dealing with this issue, help is available. You can dial 9-8-8 for the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Please take care and here’s the show.
Last time on “Violation.”
Jake Wideman: I was 18 — I was about 18 and a half when I finally got to prison. And I didn’t know anybody.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Okay. So you’re saying like we can we can squabble about what we call it, but something is going haywire in the temporal lobe of Jake’s brain.
Dr. George Woods: No question about it.
Jake Wideman I’ve had amazing people around me. I’ve been through a decades-long struggle of healing. I’ve been in love.
Marta DeSoto: Nobody had ever listened to me the way that Jake listens to me.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Thirty years after he had gone to prison as a teenager. Jake was finally getting out.
Jake Wideman: I was stunned.
Beth Schwartzapfel: In 2016, Jake Wideman got out of prison. After 30 years behind bars, and seven hearings in front of the parole board in Arizona, they sent him out in the world, with an ankle monitor and a lot of rules to follow.
Jake Wideman: As I think back on it, I flashback to the movie “Vacation with Chevy Chase.” And at one point — have you ever seen that movie?
Beth Schwartzapfel: I don’t think I have, no.
Jake Wideman: It’s a really funny movie. But anyway, at some point, Chevy Chase gets in trouble. His family doesn’t know it. And so he’s trying — they’re at the Grand Canyon and they’re taking in the view of the Grand Canyon. And Chevy Chase runs up to them…
Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold: Okay, let’s go. Come on.
Jake Wideman: And he’s kinda — he goes “Let’s go guys, let’s go guys, let’s go guys,” because he wants to get on the run before the authorities catch up with him.
Clark Griswold: Good. Come on kids, get your butts in the car. Go.
Kid #1: Don’t you want to look at the Grand Canyon?
Jake Wideman: And the kids are like, “No, we really like this view.” And they’re like “Hey dad, it’s so beautiful, it’s a beautiful view” and so he stops and he puts his arms around them just for like 3 seconds and says, “Yeah, beautiful. Okay, let’s go.”
Beth Schwartzapfel: Maybe it’s a little too on the nose that Jake thought of that scene — after all, their group from camp had been en route to the Grand Canyon when Jake killed Eric in Flagstaff in 1986. But, that’s what he said.
There were wonders all around, but there were so many rules — so many potential minefields — to navigate. Jake and his wife Marta, who he’d married while he was still in prison, could rarely linger long enough to enjoy the wonders.
Jake Wideman: The first time we went shopping, I think it was either a Fry’s or a Walmart. I don’t remember. So, I’m just fascinated by everything, you know? I love everything. I love all the selection. I love looking at the fresh fruit and vegetables, which I haven’t seen in 30 years. And she’s — she’s helping me to enjoy it, but she’s also trying to rush me along. So she’s, “Yeah, yeah, that’s great, Jake! Look at that, fresh fruit! Yeah. Awesome. Okay, let’s go. We gotta go.”
Beth Schwartzapfel: Jake remembers looking around at teenagers on the bus and thinking, “That’s how old I was the last time I was free.” Some people were really unhappy that he was out at all. And he didn’t know it at the time, but Jake’s freedom would only last nine months, so there wouldn’t be time for the little things to get old.
Jake Wideman: How many people that you talk to, adults in the world who say opening a bank account is a lot of fun? But for me it was.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Being on parole is like this weird no man’s land between prison and freedom. You’re technically serving your sentence, but in the community. The reminders that you’re not really free are constant. Because Jake was on home arrest, which is even more strict than regular parole, he had an ankle monitor and he couldn’t even leave his house without permission. In my years of reporting on this subject, I’ve spoken to people who chose to finish out their sentence in prison rather than get out on parole because the rules are so stressful and hard to follow. There are so many rules.
Jake had 29 separate parole conditions, including: no driving. No contact with minors. No drinking alcohol. Not following any one of them could land him back in prison on a moment’s notice. Arizona is not alone in this. Long lists of rules — many of which are vague and hard to follow — give officers wide latitude to issue violations. In one case I followed in Massachusetts, a man on parole was found guilty of violating the rule against “irresponsible conduct” when he attempted suicide.
On any given day, one quarter of people in prison nationwide are there for breaking the rules of their parole or probation. They’re behind bars for stuff like moving to a new apartment without permission, or failing a drug test. They’re called technical violations. Arizona last year locked up more than 4,000 people for things like that.
Vinny Schiraldi directs the juvenile justice system in Maryland, but before he took that job this year, he worked as a researcher and ran various big-city criminal justice agencies, most recently the New York City jail system.
Vinny Schiraldi: Both probation and parole in the U.S. started in the 1800s…
Beth Schwartzapfel: He said that at one time, parole was a social service — a way to help people adjust to life on the outside. But parole officers, or POs, began to focus more on punishment around the same time that the rest of the system did: with the advent of the war on drugs.
President Ronald Reagan: Drugs are menacing our society.
Beth Schwartzapfel: And the war on crime in the 1970s and 80s.
President George H.W. Bush: We need more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors.
Beth Schwartzapfel: The war on drugs — kicked into high gear by the late president Ronald Reagan, and then George H.W. Bush after him — brought an unprecedented rise in the sheer number of people being supervised and policed.
This is Vinny talking on a TV show hosted by the nonprofit Fortune Society.
Vinny Schiraldi: So now you’ve got POs with massive caseloads, no money to really help the people who might need housing or education or jobs. No, no resources for that. Or very few resources for that. So what started to happen is that they used the resource they had. Prison. That was always available. Maybe you couldn’t you couldn’t find a drug treatment program or job program for people, but you can always find a prison cell.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Vinny says the whole system shifted its priorities and incentives. Without the resources to provide real help when people struggle, a parole officer has very few options. It’s not that most officers are vindictive or petty or mean-spirited, though some surely are. Rather, when the system expects people to fail, then people will meet that expectation one way or another.
I think lots of people, including Jake, would say that the system expected Jake to fail and his supporters say the system failed him. We’ll talk more about that later. For now, just think about the system Vinny is describing. Where a prison cell is the go-to solution for almost any problem, and where parole officers have little to gain by helping people succeed.
Vinny Schiraldi: If I take a chance on this person and they go out and live a happy, healthy, productive life, I actually get nothing for that. I don’t get a attaboy. I don’t get a plaque, nothing. But if they go out and re-offend, I could get demoted. I could get fired. I look stupid in front of my coworkers because I am a sap, because I took a chance on a person.
Beth Schwartzapfel: You may have heard the term “mass incarceration” — this idea that the U.S. locks up more people than any country in the world. That the prison system is now so large that it becomes its own ecosystem, with enormous economies and communities that profit from it and orbit around it. But scholars and activists have also lately been talking about “mass supervision.”
Amy Goodman: Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner refers to it as, quote, mass supervision, the evil twin of mass incarceration.
Ronald Day: Today’s show is entitled A Spotlight on Mass Supervision.
Chesa Boudin: If we’re serious about ending mass incarceration, then we need to be equally serious about ending mass supervision.
Beth Schwartzapfel: There are almost two million people in U.S. prisons, but there are almost four million people on probation or parole. It’s like a gigantic system of mass surveillance hidden in plain sight.
Jake’s list of rules ran several pages and included: Pay fees, needs assessment, no use of alcohol, random tests for drugs/alcohol, may not operate a motor vehicle, no contact with family of victim, must pay restitution, recommend halfway house or designated by parole officer, I will charge the GPS electronic monitor tracking device and the vague catchall condition, “I will follow all directives I am given, either verbal or written.”
This one would come back to haunt him.
I’m Beth Schwartzapfel. From The Marshall Project and WBUR, this is “Violation.” A story about second chances, parole boards, and who pulls the levers of power in the justice system.
This is Part Five: “Mass Supervision.”
C.T. Wright: We will begin the formal hearing at this point and I will invite Mr. Wideman to come forward.
Beth Schwartzapfel: After he was out of prison for six months, Jake went before the parole board again, in May of 2017. It was a routine check-in to update the board on how home arrest was going. His parole officer, Daniel Pereda, said it was going very well.
Daniel Pereda: The offender has been in compliance with programming. All the employers, his four employers have been — spoke about him positively. At this time the offender has been in compliance with his current conditions, and, directives. That’s all I got to say.
Beth Schwartzapfel: I know this tape is hard to hear, but Pereda says that Jake’s employers have spoken about him positively and that has been in compliance with his current conditions and directives. But board chair C.T. Wright seemed skeptical. He asked Pereda: “Everything is going well? Like, everything?”
C.T. Wright: OK, Sir. May I just ask this, and I mean, and I know that you said “all.” “All” is a big word, A-L-L, that’s a big word. Have there been — and I’m assuming that you had experience in working with other inmates in the past — have there been any, any violations whatsoever that you are aware of, that Mr. Wineman [sic] has committed since, being out, sir, being on home arrest?
Beth Schwartzapfel: And Pereda said, no. Jake was doing great.
Daniel Pereda: To the best of my knowledge, no, sir. I’ve been a community corrections officer since 2006. And I have supervised numerous offenders and Mr. Wideman has not committed any violations.
Beth Schwartzapfel: It’s an odd question, right? Why was Wright so skeptical that Jake had been in compliance with all his directives?
Well, Pereda had warned Jake in advance of this hearing that things behind the scenes were more complicated than either of them had realized.
But first, let’s rewind to November of 2016, when Jake was released from prison to home arrest. He moved into a halfway house in Phoenix. The vibe was sort of like a cross between a drug rehab and a college dorm — designed to ease the transition to the outside world. He had his own room, but there was a curfew and mandatory meetings and a manager who kept an eye on things.
Jake Wideman: I can’t believe this, you know, and I’ll be spending the night tonight, not in a cell, but in a — in an actual bedroom. And I’ll get to see my wife tonight and give her a hug outside, you know, without being monitored by some visitation officers.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Now, home arrest is meant to be like you’re incarcerated at your house. Arizona law says it’s conditioned on “Remaining at the inmate’s place of residence at all times except for movement out of the residence according to mandated conditions.”
But for a long time the corrections department treated it more like a trial run, letting people earn a little freedom and watching closely. If they did well, they could move on to general parole, which would mean no ankle monitor and fewer restrictions.
Even though he was still technically a prisoner, Jake was as free as he had been in decades. I keep trying to think about how to characterize the wonder and grace he says he felt at all the little things he experienced his first night there. How overwhelmed and awed he was by being able to walk out a door without permission. How he couldn’t sleep that first night because he hadn’t spent the night in a room that was quiet and dark for 30 years. After writing and discarding half a dozen cheesy metaphors, I figure I’ll just let Jake tell you about it.
Jake Wideman: One of the most, you know, beautiful moments of my life was sitting outside at a little picnic table right in front of the halfway house in the evening, watching the sunset with my wife, eating dinner, you know, eating dinner out of a little cardboard box.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Jake looked out at the mountains in the distance and remembered all the times Marta had described her hikes in those mountains to him over the phone. How long he had dreamed of joining her, and how he hoped that soon he’d be able to do that.
Jake Wideman: And tears came to my eyes. I just for a little while, I couldn’t stop crying. And it’s funny, because most of the guys at the halfway house, they’re former prisoners and, you know, still kind of caught up in the taboos about showing vulnerability and things like that. So even in that moment, even in that moment of utter, utter freedom and utter emotional freedom, I’m still trying to, you know, put my elbow next to my face.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Decades of prison culture were so ingrained that he wasn’t ready yet to show his tears. Later that night, Marta went home and Jake went to his room.
Jake Wideman: And suddenly Eric came to mind and [long silence] sorry — the only thing I could think of was or imagine, in that moment, was just to repeat over and over again, like a mantra. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” You know?
Beth Schwartzapfel: Jake says he often thinks of Eric. He says that part of his daily routine when he wakes up each morning is to bring Eric and his family to mind, to wish them peace, and to recommit to being his best self, in honor of the pain he caused them. But although he thinks of Eric every day, Jake says this moment was different.
Jake Wideman: Thinking of Eric after the, the surpassing joy that I had felt for the last couple of hours that I just described. And I felt like there was, there was a part of me which just felt like he belonged there, too. How could I have taken the opportunity from another human being to experience what I just experienced? And I just had to kind of communing with Eric’s spirit, where I just, you know, said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Beth Schwartzapfel: If you’re wondering about Jake’s authenticity here — I mean, he gets emotional so rarely in our interviews — you might be asking, does Jake wake up every day thinking about Eric? What does being truly “sorry” sound like? These are not things I can fact check.
For their part, Eric’s family did not appear to believe that Jake was sorry, or trust that he had changed. Almost immediately after Jake’s release, Eric’s father, Sandy Kane, contacted the parole office. He wanted to ask Pereda a few questions and quote “provide you with some important information that could be helpful to you in managing this case,” the records said.
It’s because of his status as a victim that Sandy Kane could make a call like this.
Arizona is a leader in victims’ rights protections. It was only the sixth state to enshrine a Victims Bill of Rights into its state constitution, which, among other things, ensures that any time a defendant has a right to appear and to speak, their victim — or, in a murder case, their victim’s family — does, too. That includes every appearance from a sentencing hearing all the way to a parole board hearing, decades later. The statute doesn’t say they can call and talk to any corrections official at any time. It also doesn’t say they can’t. I’ve spoken to many people who work in the system in Arizona, and they all said officials tend to err on the side of providing victims access, even when the rules don’t specifically require it.
Mariam El-menshawi: So, there are situations where because of the victim’s concerns and the victim’s needs, they will reach out to the parole officers, etcetera.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Mariam El-menshawi directs the Victims of Crime Resource Center at the University of the Pacific in California. She said the system’s attention to victims was born of the victim’s rights movement, which took shape in the 1980s.
President Ronald Reagan: The innocent victims of crime have frequently been overlooked by our criminal justice system and their pleas for justice have gone unheeded, and their wounds, personal, emotional, and financial, have gone unattended.
Beth Schwartzapfel: That’s Ronald Reagan, talking about a task force he convened in 1982. For many decades, with the state and the defendant on opposite sides of a case, the victim was a sort of third wheel — all these people talking about something terrible that happened to them without their voice mattering at all. Reagan’s task force called the treatment of victims “a national disgrace” and urged states to pass a wide range of new protections. The right to be heard was one of them, Mariam said.
Mariam El-menshawi: If the person’s out on parole, they want to make sure that the person doesn’t come close to where they live, close to where they work. So they want to make sure that there’s a GPS monitor on that person and that it is being followed. Sometimes victims reach out to parole officers regarding restitution. So, you know, they can reach out to the probation officer or the parole officer to get to let the probation officer know, hey, this person’s not paying.
Beth Schwartzapfel: But the Kanes’ degree of involvement with officials was unusual for a victim’s family. Over the course of Jake’s time out of prison, the Kanes were regularly in touch with the Department of Corrections — calling them, emailing them with complaints, with information, with their own reports about Jake’s whereabouts. The Kanes did their own investigation of Jake, and submitted it to corrections officials and Jake’s experience in this system of mass supervision was about to change.
We’ll be right back.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Around the same time that Sandy Kane was expressing his outrage that Jake was out of prison, the director of the department personally began holding meetings to ensure that the parole office was properly supervising Jake, even though his own employees said Jake was following all the rules. This is a man who was at the time, overseeing ten state prison complexes, six private prisons, and thousands of employees. I talked to many experts who work in and around the corrections department and they all said this is not what usually happens.
This is John Fabricius.
John Fabricius: I’m the executive director of Arizonans for Transparency and Accountability in Corrections – ATAC — here locally in Arizona.
Beth Schwartzapfel: He was incarcerated for 15 years in Arizona prisons and later went on to found a department of corrections watchdog group in the state. He said this about victims’ usual involvement in parole cases he’s observed:
John Fabricius: You’re going to go through victim services and you’re going to go through the normal bureaucracy and they’re going to be responsive to you, but you’re certainly not going to get the director of the Department of Corrections setting meetings, following up and bringing in people…
Beth Schwartzapfel: Since I started telling you Jake’s story, and reporting it out, there has always been this question of whether the Kanes have been too involved in Jake’s parole case, pushing the boundaries of how parole works. Because there are ways in which Jake’s case feels very unusual in the way it has played out. We’ll talk more about that later.
But you can’t really blame the Kanes for being persistent and as involved as possible with the effort to keep Jake in prison. They were shocked that Jake was released, and wanted to make sure the state was keeping a very close eye on the person who murdered their son. And that was their right.
What we know for sure, is that the state treated Jake differently than most people on parole — very differently. The question is: Did the state treat Jake differently from other people on parole because of pressure from the Kanes?
I had a lot of questions for the corrections department about this. I made many requests to the Department of Corrections media office for a phone call or sit-down interview with department officials. But multiple emails and phone calls went unanswered. WBUR producer Quincy Walters and I even showed up at the Department of Corrections offices in Phoenix.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Hi there. I’m looking to connect with someone from the media office, or the communications team.
Department of Corrections Officer: Do you have an appointment with them?
Beth Schwartzapfel: No, I’ve just been emailing and emailing and calling and calling.
Department of Corrections Officer: They’re actually having a big to-do on the third floor today. I doubt they’re seeing anybody today. I can try them. You don’t have contact information for anybody?
Beth Schwartzapfel: I do but nobody is getting back me.
Beth Schwartzapfel: So, all our official avenues exhausted, Quincy and I tried other tacks. We tried reaching the various parole staffers who had worked on Jake’s case. I texted. I emailed. I sent letters. I got hung up on.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Hi, is this P.O. Pogue?
Beth Schwartzapfel: Well that didn’t go well.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Jake had said he and Pereda had a good rapport so I thought perhaps Pereda might have some insight he was willing to share into what went wrong. But after voicemails and snail mails there was no reply. So during a visit to Phoenix, Quincy and I went to the house listed under Pereda’s name in public records databases.
Unidentified Woman: Hi.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Hi there, we’re looking for Daniel. Are we in the right place?
Unidentified Woman: What’s that?
Beth Schwartzapfel: We’re looking for Daniel Pereda.
Unidentified Woman: Who are you?
Beth Schwartzapfel: Turns out, it was a rental property and the woman at the door was his tenant. But after that, Pereda finally called me back. And told me in no uncertain terms that he would not be speaking to me, and to stop trying to contact him. And if I had any questions, to contact the media office.
Y’know, the same media office that wasn’t replying to my phone calls or emails and that wouldn’t send anyone down to talk to us even when we were standing in their lobby? Yeah, that media office. I should contact them.
To be fair, employees of any corrections department I’ve ever spoken to are routinely told they’ll be fired or reprimanded for speaking to the media without permission. So I don’t blame Pereda or anyone else for declining to speak with me.
But the media office — they could have provided someone to answer my questions. It’s literally their job.
But I couldn’t get a single state official who worked in the department at the time to talk to me on the record. So I’ve had to cobble together Jake’s account, court documents, and public records to figure out what really happened in the weeks and months before he was sent back to prison.
And according to those records one of the first things Jake asked Pereda after he was released was whether he could see Dr. McCaine, the psychologist he’d met while he was in prison. But Pereda said no.
Holly Doorman: When inmate Wideman was released, it was found that he had inquired about Dr. McCaine…
Beth Schwartzapfel: Holly Dorman was one of the supervisors in the Phoenix parole office where Pereda worked. Just there she said that quote “When inmate Wideman was released, it was found that he had inquired about Dr. McCaine.” This is her testifying at another board hearing, later.
Holly Doorman: …but as a matter of course we had referred him to the CHC counseling first…
Beth Schwartzapfel: Dorman goes on to say that they referred Jake to counseling at Correctional Healthcare Companies — everyone just calls it “CHC” — instead. Because the corrections department contracts with them, the counseling appointments are free. Quote “The issue with seeing Dr. McCaine was placed on hold” she said.
His counselor at CHC at first seemed wary of Jake, records show. “I have a sense that he will attempt to manipulate his attendance based on his work schedule,” she wrote in an email to Pereda. But in future correspondence, she had only praise: He had good attendance and a good attitude and actively participated in therapy. In June, she discharged Jake from the program.
By then, family members and friends had begun making visits out to Phoenix. Jake’s sister Jamila, now in her 40s, came out with his brother Daniel, and his mother Judy. Jamila hadn’t seen Jake outside of prison since she was 10 years old.
Jamila Wideman: I think probably about an hour and a half that first day, the way in which we spent a ton of time together that day was actually throwing a football around and peppering that back and forth with, with conversation. And, you know, you talk about what it means just to just to be.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Jamila had spent almost her entire life making trips out to Arizona, first to visit Jake, then to speak on his behalf at parole board hearings.
Jamila told a story at a parole board hearing once about a research paper she wrote in elementary school about the planet Jupiter. Jake was already locked up, but she told him about it over the phone, and he asked her to send him a copy, she said.
Jamila Wideman: And when I next spoke to him on the phone, you would have thought that I had, in fact, discovered Jupiter if you could have heard the excitement and the encouragement in his voice.
Beth Schwartzapfel: In subsequent conversations he would talk to her about astronomy and the night sky, and she later realized he had made a point to read some books about it so that they could continue their conversations.
After she played for the WNBA, Jamila had gone on to become an attorney, even working for a time at a prisoner civil rights nonprofit. So Jamila is both a realist about the challenges Jake faced and also a devoted sister who wants so much to see him free.
Jamila Wideman: I think that’s — that’s what I remember most was the freedom to just be in one another’s presence. And all of the richness that were in the moments of silence, that were in the moments of conversation, that were in the moments of banter, that were in the moments of laughter, that were in the moments of physical touch. It was extraordinary.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Reconnecting with family was extraordinary, but finding a job was proving extraordinarily hard. His first job, through a temp agency, was at a recycling center, sorting garbage, but working amid all the trash was causing him health problems, so he applied for a clerical job in the office at the company. And he got hired. He was transparent about his criminal history, he said. His parole officer required this and it is reflected in Pereda’s notes. But a few days before he was set to start he got a call to say the offer had been rescinded. Jake says he later reached a contact in the HR department.
Jake Wideman: And he said, “Off the record, “There were phone calls that were received by our main office. By whom I’m not at liberty to speak to you about.”
Beth Schwartzapfel: A similar thing happened at his next job, at a steel manufacturing company. Excellent interview. Transparency about his background. Great rapport with his boss during his first day on the job. Then, a call: don’t come back.
Jake Wideman: She calls me back like 15 minutes late, she says, “I don’t know what happened. She said, but they don’t want you here anymore. I don’t know who you pissed off.”
Beth Schwartzapfel: It would be hard to verify any of these stories after all this time. But we were able to confirm that Jake’s parole paperwork included a letter of support from the temp agency that hired him to work in the recycling plant. A board member even comments, “that’s kinda different, they write a support letter for him at the same time they didn’t want to give him a job.” And on the steel company, here’s Pereda:
Daniel Pereda: They enjoyed him, liked him, they turned around, contacted the staffing agency and stated that position that Mr. Wideman was at, they were going to do a background on him. Well, they did a background, and they no longer needed his services at that facility.
Beth Schwartzapfel: “They enjoyed him, liked him,” Pereda says there. “They turned around, contacted the staffing agency and said they were going to do a background check. And then all of a sudden after that background check, they no longer needed Jake’s services.”
Jake’s record also includes a glowing letter from another employer he worked for briefly as a laborer, a mom-and-pop construction company. But he didn’t much enjoy the work, so he was pleased when he got a new job for a company that provided customer service outsourcing to other companies.
He liked this job. He says he loved the constant activity, the meetings, the bustle of answering phones and chatting with colleagues.
And once Pereda saw that Jake was following all the rules, he started allowing him out on hikes and out for occasional meals, records show. Baby steps toward normalcy.
After three months at the halfway house, he got permission to move into his own apartment, a tiny one-bedroom in a complex not too far from Marta’s home.
He wasn’t allowed to live with Marta because of an ongoing custody dispute between Marta and her ex-husband. Their two kids were 14 and 12 at the time, and their father did not want them having any contact with Jake. So whenever the kids were at school or at their father’s house, Marta and Jake tried to make the little apartment feel like their home. Jake’s dad treated him to some furniture — a bed, a couch, a coffee table, a TV.
Jake Wideman: It was small, but it was, it was beautiful to me. I wanted a little outside area where I could put a chair and, you know, gaze at the sky when I wanted to gaze at the sky. And this had a perfect little, little balcony for that.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Now that he had his own place, Jake began inviting a few people for dinner. One of those was Mike Kimerer, a Phoenix defense attorney who had worked with Jake’s other longtime attorney Patty Garin to represent him from the time he was 16. Mike came to Jake’s house with concerns about the parole department. Really, it was a warning.
Mike Kimerer: As a matter of fact, that time I had dinner with Jake at his house. I said, “They’re going to try to set you up.” I said “the slightest little thing could be a problem.”
Beth Schwartzapfel: Defense attorney Mike Kimerer was right. The slightest little thing was going to be a problem.
By the time Jake was released from prison, he and Marta had been married for three years, and they’d been in a relationship at least twice that long. But they’d never gone out for a meal together. Never hugged or kissed without a correctional officer looking on. Never gone to a movie together or gone for a hike together or driven in a car together. Never spent the night together.
Jake Wideman: We had both talked in the weeks leading up to my release and anticipated there would be awkwardness, and, you know, actually being physically together– ’scuse me– for the first time, without the restraints that were in visitation, and there just wasn’t that awkwardness. It just felt natural.
Beth Schwartzapfel: Jake said this at that routine check-in before the parole board six months after he got out. Remember that hearing? How skeptical the board chair was that Jake was actually doing well? How he kept pressing Pereda on whether Jake was following all the rules?
About a week before that hearing, someone notified parole officials about all kinds of rules Jake had supposedly been breaking — drinking, spending time with kids — accusations which Jake of course denied. Pereda had sat Jake down to ask him about it. During that conversation, Pereda had also told him something else.
Jake Wideman: About a week before my first status hearing, my parole officer actually made me aware that there was a private investigator following me. And so he went so far as to warn me that, I should be prepared just in case something came up that would cause them to arrest me right at the status hearing, right in the hearing room, which was a pretty big shock to me.
Beth Schwartzapfel: For their part, the Kanes did not want Jake out of prison, ever. Though they declined our multiple requests for interviews over many years, they made that very clear in public appearances and documents. “I would do anything to keep him out of society,” Sandy Kane told a local newspaper.
But behind the scenes, things were getting weird.
The Kanes had found an unexpected ally who did not want Jake out, either. They decided to team up to make sure his freedom didn’t last long
Together, they took advantage of GPS coordinates; the definition of a victim under the law; and just how easy it is to violate a condition of parole and get thrown back in prison.
Mike Kimerer: They pretty much knew once they could get him back in prison. It was going to be hard to get him out again.
Beth Schwartzapfel: They pretty much knew once they could get him back in prison. It was going to be hard to get him out again.
That’s next time, on “Violation.”
If you want more information about Jake’s case, additional documents, photos, and related stories, head over to themarshallproject.org/violation, and, wbur.org/violation.
“Violation” is a production of WBUR in Boston and The Marshall Project.
Editing of the show comes from Geraldine Sealey, who is also managing editor of The Marshall Project, and Ben Brock Johnson, executive producer of WBUR Podcasts. Additional editing, project management and web production from Amy Gorel. Quincy Walters is our producer. Mix, sound design and original music composition by Matt Reed and Paul Vaitkus.
Special thanks this week to the Fortune Society for sharing a clip of their TV show.
I’m Beth Schwartzapfel, your reporter and host. I’ll talk to you next week.
Reporter & Host: Beth Schwartzapfel; Managing Editor: Geraldine Sealey; Executive Producer: Ben Brock Johnson; Producer: Quincy Walters; Editor: Amy Gorel; Sound Designer: Matt Reed; Production Manager: Paul Vaitkus; Fact Checker: Kate Gallagher; Illustrator: Diego Mallo