Heart Tests
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Description
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 — standing up for yourself and not snitching to guards after you’ve been assaulted, for example. But the physical heart tests of Jake’s early years would give way to heart tests of a different kind: a slow and painful journey to identify and manage his mental health problems, and a search for love, even through prison bars. Eventually he would have to stitch all these experiences together to tell the parole board a compelling life story, in the hopes that they would one day find him worthy of release.
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