WNYC Studios Announces "Caught"

WNYC Studios Announces

Nine-Episode Podcast Series Will Examine Juvenile Justice in America and Feature Candid Stories from Teenage Offenders Stuck in the System

Hosted by WNYC’s Kai Wright
“Caught” to Debut Monday, March 12


(New York, NY– March 5, 2018) – Today, WNYC Studios announces CAUGHT – a nine-episode podcast series examining juvenile justice in America, featuring the intimately told stories of teenage offenders stuck in the system.

The United States imprisons more kids in juvenile detention than any other industrialized nation. Roughly 53,000 young people are in the system on any given night, and while some get second chances or learn from their mistakes, others get trapped in a web of cops, courts, and jails. 

Debuting Monday, March 12, CAUGHT will take listeners inside the moments when young people first collide with law and order and explore the life-long mark it makes on them – from the experience of being arrested, charged, and punished to attempts at rehabilitation and moving forward with life. The series will also examine contributing factors to adolescent behavior such as mental health issues and the “teenage brain,” over-policing in low-income communities, privatized prisons, the impact of decades of punitive sentencing, and the current campaign for reform. 

CAUGHT is hosted by Kai Wright of WNYC’s Narrative Unit (The United States of Anxiety, There Goes The Neighborhood) and will feature reporting from WNYC contributors, including Kaari Pitkin, Senior Producer of Radio Rookies, WNYC’s Peabody Award-winning radio program for teens; Courtney Stein, award-winning producer of Radio RookiesSarah Gonzalez, who has reported extensively on juvenile justice in New York and New Jersey; Mary Harris, Executive Producer and host of WNYC’s Only Human podcast; Cindy RodriguezSophia Paliza-CarreJared Marcelle; and Marianne McCune. Poet and Yale Law School graduate Dwayne Betts, who spent nine years in prison for a crime he committed at 16, will join host Kai Wright throughout the podcast to help listeners navigate the stories.

“The sorting of innocence from irredeemable guilt starts young,” said Wright. “And more often than not, that stark divide depends on what you look like and where you live. We wanted to tell the stories about young people who are not innocent and yet due to troubling disparities or just plain luck, they face very different consequences for their choices. For millions of them, once they get caught, that’s it. They’re stuck in a system that will shape the rest of their lives.”

“Everyone is implicated in the stories of CAUGHT,” said Jim Schachter, Vice President for News, WNYC. “Every parent faces the challenge of teaching their children that actions have consequences and at the same time wanting to protect their children from those consequences. Every citizen is responsible for understanding how our justice system works – and when it fails to work. These are CAUGHT’s vital concerns.” 

Karen Frillmann is Executive Producer and Cayce Means is Technical Director and Sound Designer.  Media partnerships include The Root and the Marshall Project.  Music for CAUGHT was created in collaboration with Building Beats, a  New York-based non-profit that provides music programs that teach entrepreneurial, leadership and life skills to underserved youth.  Additional music was composed by Peabody Award-winning producer Hannis Brown.      

In addition, WNYC will hold an event for CAUGHT on March 5 at 7pm in The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. The evening, hosted by acclaimed veteran battle rapper Mysonne "The NY General" Linen, will feature a series of micro-conversations with special guests, including poet and scholar Clint Smith, youth activist and co-founder of the #FreeBresha campaign Mariame KabaCAUGHT reporter Jared Marcelle, and Marlon Peterson, host of the podcast Decarcerated, which looks at journeys to success of formerly incarcerated individuals. For more information, please visit here.

CAUGHT will be available at wnycstudios.org, Apple Podcasts, and all other places where podcasts may be downloaded. The series will release new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through March 30.

CAUGHT is supported, in part, by the Anne Levy Fund, Margaret Neubart Foundation, the John and Gwen Smart Family Foundation, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.


Episode Descriptions are as follows:

  • Episode 1: “I Just Want You To Come Home” – Monday, March 12

In this episode, listeners are introduced to Z, a teenager who is currently incarcerated for armed robbery and we learn about how the juvenile justice system snagged him at an early age. Kai Wright also speaks with Dwayne Betts, an award-winning poet, Yale Law School graduate, juvenile justice advocate who, in his own youth, spent nine years incarcerated. Together their stories introduce us to the human consequences, especially for black and brown youth, of the expansion and hardening of criminal justice policies in the 1990's.

  • Episode 2: “They Look At Me Like A Menace” – Wednesday, March 14

Go inside a detention facility with Z, who is part of a pilot reform program called Close to Home. The center where he is held is focused on creating a therapeutic model that keeps kids in proximity to their families and supports them after their release. The episode explores Z’s challenges with anger management and about the mental health challenges that so often worsen when kids are locked up.

  • Episode 3: “He Really Wants To Shoot Someone” – Friday, March 16

This episode explores the roots of Z’s reality. At 15 years old, Z was sentenced in adult court, and that’s all because of another 15 year-old kid, 40 years ago. In 1978, when Willie Bosket murdered two people on the subway and got just five years, the tabloids went wild with the story--in the middle of a contentious governor’s race. The result was a new state law that pushed thousands of kids into the adult system and which states adopted across the country.

  • Episode 4: “Oh My God, What Have I Done” – Monday, March 19

Honor stabbed his sister to protect his mother during a domestic dispute. The event was a breaking point in Honor’s long and ongoing struggles around mental health. He’s fought cancer, attempted suicide, and struggled with depression. But he’s got a chance at a diversion program. This episode follows Honor and his family as they go through weeks of court-mandated therapy in an effort to keep him out of prison.

  • Episode 5: “The Teenage Brain Is Like A Sports Car” – Wednesday, March 21

The Supreme Court has decided that giving kids the death penalty or sentencing them to life without the possibility of parole is cruel and unusual punishment. The brain science of how teenagers develop and make decisions played a large part in those decisions. This episode follows Steven, a so-called “juvenile lifer,” as he goes before his same judge who could, as a result of a retroactive Supreme Court decision, give him a chance to be free.

  • Episode 6: “I Want Someone To Love Me Even For A Second” – Friday, March 23

Girls are only a small fraction of the juvenile justice system, but they are often much more vulnerable. An estimated 80% of girls in the system have been victims of sexual abuse, which means detention often re-traumatizes them and leads to fighting and increasingly poor outcomes. We follow one girl who wound her way through both the foster care and juvenile justice systems, and make the case for abolishment of detention.

  • Episode 7: “Please Lock Up My Kid” – Monday, March 26

Girls are incarcerated at a significantly higher rate than boys for something called status offenses, acts only considered crimes if committed by young people. Kids can be incarcerated for things like running away, not going to school, or missing curfew - and this becomes a pipeline for them to enter the broader juvenile justice system. This episode follows Maria, who lives in Washington State, and how she was affected by status offenses.

  • Episode 8: “It’s The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done” – Wednesday, March 28

The justice system isn’t the catch-all for all struggling kids. Desperate parents with means can turn to a whole network of expensive private programs before their kids even get caught. This episode takes a look at the $400 million industry of programs in Utah, that include $500/day wilderness camps, highly specialized boarding schools, and 24/7 therapy.

  • Episode 9: “You Just Sit There And Wait For The Next Day To Come” – Friday, March 30

Traditional solitary has been banned in Rikers and in New York statewide for juveniles after they’ve been sentenced, but the practice continues in some counties pre-trial. WNYC and The Marshall Project investigate how widespread the practice is and hears one teenager’s account of being held in solitary for two months after being caught shoplifting. This episode    also features an update on Z’s fate.




WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio, home to some of the most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts of the last decade, including Radiolab2 Dope QueensNancyThe New Yorker Radio HourFreakonomics RadioDeath, Sex & MoneyHere’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Note To SelfOn the Media, and A Piece of Work with Abbi Jacobson. WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with podcasts and national radio programs that inform, inspire, and delight millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. Their programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, interviews that reveal, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself. For more information, visit wnycstudios.wnyc.org.