Voices from Solitary: American Supermax
Joseph Dole is serving a life without parole sentence for a conviction that he continues to fight pro se. He was confined in Tamms Supermax Prison for a full decade, from 2002 through 2012, when a court ruling gave him and others at Tamms a due process right to a fair hearing, which allowed him to win a transfer out of Tamms. Tamms would be emptied of prisoners and closed the following year–coincidentally, on his birthday.
Joseph Dole has written many articles, essays, and research papers that have been published in Prison Legal News, The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, and other print and online publications. His essay “The Meaning of Life” (also reprinted on Solitary Watch) appears in the new anthology Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough, published by The Other Death Penalty Project.
More of his writings can be found at www.realcostofprisons.org/writing/ (Thanks to Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project for forwarding us the following poem.) He can be reached by writing: Joseph Dole, K84446, Stateville Correctional Center, P.O. Box 112, Joliet, IL 60434. –Jean Casella
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A guard informed me upon arrival that
there are benefits to this isolation.
He promoted the fact that we are now
all safe from gang retaliation.
I had to ask “But what of the
retaliation of the prison administration?”
He smiled cryptically as he enjoyed
this in ecstatic contemplation.
None of what I was experiencing was
making me feel safe. But then, by “grace,”
I see a new definition. I’m safe from
my family’s loving embrace.
I’m safe from having education take
I’m safe from recreation keeping my
heart’s healthy pace.
How I wish I could articulate this quasi-
existence that I’ve grown to hate.
Or get an answer to why so many strangers
sadistically enjoy my monotonous fate.
They say societal enlightenment takes time, but what if it takes
longer than your life, and you’re forced to wait?