“Suave” is a seven-part podcast series about the criminal justice system that sentences juveniles to life in prison —particularly young men of color— and what happens when, decades later, they’re suddenly granted one more chance at freedom. The story follows David Luis ‘Suave’ Gonzalez from boy to man, exploring incarceration, redemption, and the often unusual relationship between a journalist and a source.
“Suave” is awarded as “a distinguished example of audio journalism that serves the public interest, characterized by revelatory reporting and illuminating storytelling.” The Pulitzers note that the podcast series is “a brutally honest and immersive profile of a man reentering society after serving more than 30 years in prison.”
The Futuro Studios production team includes executive producer Maria Hinojosa, host and producer Maggie Freleng, reporter and producer Julieta Martinelli, story editor Audrey Quinn, engineer and sound designer Stephanie Lebow, and executive editor Marlon Bishop. The podcast is distributed by PRX and was released free to audiences in February 2021.
“When I heard the news that ‘Suave’ won the Pulitzer Prize, I felt like a tectonic shift happened,” said Maria Hinojosa, President and Founder of Futuro Media. “The Pulitzer is an example of American excellence. That our podcast focusing on people that are often forgotten just because they are behind bars is being recognized is an extraordinary feat. This is an incredible moment for American journalism — the choice to recognize a piece going deep into the humanity of not just the source, but also the journalists. This is a testament to never giving up on a story and to trusting your producers. The ‘Suave’ podcast was always scrappy from the start. Never in my life did I think we could win a Pulitzer. I think that’s the reason we won.”
“This is a remarkable achievement. We are so proud of our partners at Futuro Media, who represent the best of journalism and audio,” said Kerri Hoffman, CEO of PRX. “Our partnership demonstrates the heights we can reach together in public media. Congratulations to the team behind ‘Suave.’”
In remarks during the announcement of this year’s winners, John Daniszewski of the Associated Press and co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, stated: “These stories sometimes right injustice, sometimes they illuminate a deeper context of the local communities in which we live. Sometimes they surprise and entertain. Though what all of the art and journalism we honor today has in common is that it was done ethically and seriously and in its enterprise has played a part in keeping our democracies vibrant.”
“Suave” from Futuro Studios and PRX was also awarded this year in the IDA Documentary Awards from the International Documentary Association.
2022 Pulitzer Prize finalists for audio included NPR and NBC News. Prior winners in The Pulitzer Prizes have included “This American Life” as well as a jointly-produced podcast from NPR, KCUR, and WABE. “Ear Hustle” from Radiotopia and PRX was a finalist in 2020.
The Pulitzer Prizes, administered by Columbia University and considered the most prestigious in American journalism, recognize work in 15 journalism categories and seven arts categories. This year’s awards honored work produced in 2021.
Support for “Suave” was provided by the Art for Justice Fund, a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and The Heising-Simons Foundation: Unlocking knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities.
About “Suave” from Futuro Studios and PRX
“Suave” is a seven-part podcast series about the criminal justice system that sentences juveniles to life in prison — particularly young men of color — and what happens when, decades later, they’re suddenly granted one more chance at freedom. The story follows David Luis ‘Suave’ Gonzalez from boy to man, and explores incarceration, redemption, and the often unusual relationship between a journalist and a source.
In 1988, Gonzalez was found guilty of a first-degree homicide committed when he was 17 years old. A Philadelphia judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At Graterford State Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania, Suave joined the largest population of juvenile lifers in the country, young men considered by the U.S. justice system to be “irredeemable.” Then, in 2016, a Supreme Court decision changed everything. After expecting to die in prison, suddenly Gonzalez had another chance at freedom.
Released in 2017 and now in his 50s, the series follows Suave as he transitions to life on the outside and tries to live as a model citizen, yet he soon realizes there are limits to how much freedom he can ever truly have. Journalist Maria Hinojosa — who has communicated with Gonzalez for nearly 30 years — also realizes there are limits to how much she can help as he navigates the realities of conditional freedom. As the team explores racism and corruption in the legal system, and the more Hinojosa learns about Gonzalez’s crime, the more they question the events that put him in prison in the first place, and the system that continues to put children away for life.
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 and uplifting voices and perspectives often overlooked by mainstream media. Futuro Studios partners with some of the world’s top media companies to produce beautiful narrative storytelling podcasts that center Latinx, Black, and immigrant experiences. Our team of podcast producers, editors, sound designers and engineers have collectively won some of the highest awards in narrative and investigative journalism.
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, “Radical Imagination” with PolicyLink, and “TransLash Podcast” with Imara Jones. Recently, it launched the critically-acclaimed podcasts: “Anything For Selena” with WBUR, “La Brega” with WNYC Studios, “Norco 80” for LAist Studios, “LOUD: The History of Reggaeton” with Spotify, and “Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez” with Sonoro. Futuro Studios podcasts were recognized in many 2021 year-end lists, including four of our original series landing on The Atlantic’s Top 50 podcasts of 2021.
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 journalist Julio Ricardo Varela.
PRX is a non-profit public media company specializing in audio journalism and storytelling. PRX serves independent producers and organizations by helping them connect to their most engaged, supportive audiences. One of the world’s leading podcast publishers, PRX works in partnership with TED, PBS, the Smithsonian, Futuro Media, GBH, Religion of Sports, and more. PRX is also home to Radiotopia, known as one of the most creative and successful podcast networks. In addition, PRX distributes trusted and treasured public radio programming to hundreds of stations nationwide, including “The World,” “The Moth Radio Hour,” “This American Life,” “Snap Judgment,” “Reveal,” “The Takeaway,” and “Latino USA.” PRX programs have been recognized by the Peabody Awards, the duPont-Columbia Awards, the IDA Documentary Awards, and the Pulitzer Prizes.