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Life on parole: How a violation put Jacob Wideman back in prison

(Diego Mallo for The Marshall Project)
(Diego Mallo for The Marshall Project)

Jacob Wideman was released from prison in 2016 after 30 years behind bars and seven hearings in front of the Arizona parole board.

Jake 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.

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 2 million people in U.S. prisons, but there are almost 4 million people on probation or parole.

In Part 5 of Violation, 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 wherever you get your podcasts.

Find the full episode, more information and photos here.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.