Futuro Studios and PRX Present “Suave,” A New Podcast About the System That Sentences Juveniles to Life in Prison, A Story of Incarceration, Redemption, and the Unusual Relationship Between A Journalist And A Source

The seven-part series features acclaimed journalist Maria Hinojosa and is hosted by Maggie Freleng

David Cotrone
Feb 9 · 5 min read

Futuro Studios and public media organization PRX today present “Suave,” a new seven-part podcast series about the system that sentences juveniles to life in prison, a story of incarceration, redemption, and the unusual relationship between a journalist and a source.

The first two episodes of “Suave” are available now. New episodes will be released weekly on Tuesdays through March 16.

Listen across podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, and Spotify

In 1988 David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez was found guilty of a first-degree homicide committed when he was 17 years old. A Philadelphia judge sentenced him to spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole. At Graterford State Correctional Institution, Suave joined the largest population of juvenile lifers in the country, young men considered by the justice system to be ‘irredeemable.’ The United States is the only country in the world still allowing minors to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Maria Hinojosa — anchor of the award-winning public radio program “Latino USA,” co-host of the political podcast “In the Thick,” author of “Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America,” and executive producer of “Suave” — met Suave 27 years ago when she was invited to speak at a graduation ceremony at Graterford, where Suave was serving his sentence. What started as a journalist-source relationship developed into a friendship of sorts over the decades, and they kept in touch by phone, letter, and visits. Then, in 2016, a Supreme Court decision changed everything. The Court said it was unconstitutional to impose mandatory sentences of life without parole on juveniles and made their ruling retroactive — opening the door for thousands of cases to be reevaluated. Suddenly Suave had a chance at freedom. Now in his 50s and outside, Suave tries to live as a model citizen, yet soon realizes there are limits to how much freedom he can ever truly have. Maria also realizes there are limits to how much she can help. And the more Maria learns about Suave’s crime, the more she questions the events that put Suave in prison and the system that continues to put children away for life.

Suave is hosted by producer and reporter Maggie Freleng. Previously Producer-At-Large for “Latino USA,” Freleng is also the host of the “Unjust and Unsolved” podcast focusing on wrongful convictions and in 2019 she was named one of 50 women “who can change the world in journalism.”

The “Suave” production team also includes producer Julieta Martinelli, story editor Audrey Quinn, mix engineer Stephanie Lebow and executive editor Marlon Bishop, VP of Content Development at Futuro Studios.

From left to right: Hinojosa, Gonzalez, and Freleng (photo courtesy of Futuro Studios)

“When I first met Suave in 1993, I never could have imagined that he would one day be getting out of prison and that we would be making a documentary about our experience of almost 30 years together,” Hinojosa said. “Suave faced some of the most extraordinary circumstances as a child — poverty, drug use, death, addiction and the failure of a system that was supposed to protect him. This is a very intimate story about Suave’s life and the impact of growing up behind bars, and yet his story of hope and perseverance is universal.”

“‘Suave’ is a show about people who make mistakes, particularly those who are systematically disenfranchised, and especially children, who, because of their one mistake, are deemed incapable of change,” Freleng said. “I hope listeners come away thinking about the importance of forgiveness and redemption for all people who like Suave were written off by a system focused on punishment instead of rehabilitation.”

Brought to audiences in partnership with PRX, “Suave” is available free on-demand across podcast platforms, including via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

For more, visit suavepodcast.org and futurostudios.org. Follow along on social media @futurostudios.

Listen to episode one (“The Sentence”) and episode two (“The Hustle”) now (art by Virgilio Tzaj)

About Futuro Studios

Futuro Studios is the new creative division of the Futuro Media Group, an independent nonprofit organization producing multimedia journalism that explores and gives a critical voice to the diversity of the American experience. Based in Harlem and founded in 2010 by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, Futuro Media is committed to telling stories often overlooked by mainstream media.

In 2019, Futuro Studios debuted with “The Battle of 187,” a co-production with the Los Angeles Times, following up with “Con Todo: Brown Love,” in collaboration with Netflix. Recently, it launched three other podcasts: “Anything For Selena” with WBUR, “La Brega” with WNYC Studios and “Norco 80” for LAist Studios.

Futuro Media also produces Peabody Award winning Latino USA, the longest running national Latino news and cultural public radio program; “In The Thick,” an award winning political podcast; and Latino Rebels, a pioneering digital news outlet founded by Julio Ricardo Varela.

About PRX

PRX is a public media organization shaping the future of audio by producing and distributing content, building technology, and training talented, independent producers. With an award-winning portfolio ranging from iconic public media programs such as “The Moth Radio Hour,” “TED Talks Daily,” “This American Life,” “Snap Judgment,” “Latino USA,” “The Takeaway,” “The World,” and “Reveal,” as well as a growing body of podcast-first productions, including the Radiotopia podcast network and the TRAX podcast network for tweens, PRX generates more than 100 million podcast downloads per month.

Art by Virgilio Tzaj

PRX Official

PRX is a non-profit media company shaping the future of…

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