Tamms Correctional Center inmate Joseph Dole is serving a life sentence for murder for a crime he says he did not commit.

The purpose of this post is not to try and determine whether or not Joseph Dole is actually guilty of the crime that put him behind bars. Rather, we are providing a window into Mr. Dole’s world by re-posting parts of his immensely powerful prison diaries for which he was awarded second place in Essay in the 2013 Pen Prison Writing Contest on the strength on his Prison Diaries. All Things Crime Blog is currently re-posting his dairies in sections.

March 20, 2011 11:30 a.m. 

Well I got about an hour and a half of sleep after breakfast this morning before these idiots started screaming at each other at about a quarter past six. They are still at it, uninterrupted, except for the six minutes it took them to scarf down their lunch. What kind of sick cosmic joke determined that it’s usually the most ignorant people who are capable of yelling the loudest? I could barely make out anything that was being said on the television this morning because Yip and Yap’s squall was overpowering the sound emitting from my earphones. I finally gave up and now have the radio blaring in my head to try to drown them Out.

If I yell for five minutes I lose my voice. How can someone yell for 5, 10, or even 12 hours at full volume without losing their voice? It boggles my mind. Worse it gives me a headache just listening to it, grates on my nerves, and I can do nothing to make it stop or escape from the onslaught to my hearing.

joseph5Yesterday a couple of guys were having a conversation on the wing about going to Mars or something and they were talking about muscle deterioration from lack of use in space. Then hours later there was a conversation about guys not being able to hold their bladders and bowels on the yard. (The “yard” here is really just a cement box with solid concrete walls about 20 feet high. It’s about the size of a one car garage with no washroom, and half of the roof covered with chain link fence and the other half with corrugated steel where birds nest in the grooves. The birds shower the yard with nesting material and feces.) Anyway, it got me thinking, and I started to wonder if, statistically speaking, more people in supermaxes or long- term solitary confinement develop problems holding their bladders and bowels than those in the free word. Thankfully I don’t have problems, but is seems very common.

prisA lot of guys are scared to go to the yard because they can never get back in to use the bathroom fast enough. I’ve seen a number of guys down here that have defecated or urinated on the yard because they could no longer hold it. So that had me wondering if the muscles responsible for controlling our bladders and bowels are atrophying due to lack of use. I’ve been no further than four feet away from a toilet for over 9 years other than the handful of times per year I go to the yard or on a visit, or when I’m in the shower (there’s a bathroom in the law library).

Is it a case of use’em or lose’em like when astronaut’s muscles atrophy while in space? Who knows? It wouldn’t surprise me though. Pretty soon we’ll all be old men in diapers. Someone should do a study on it. I suggested to my lawyer before that they should also do a study on the effects of solitary confinement on guys hearing, eyesight, etc. It seems everyone down here needs glasses after a year or two.


March 21, 2011 5:00 p.m. 

I tried to send a card to my stepmother but it was just given back to me because I have insufficient funds to pay for the postage.

Last Friday I received a letter from my mother telling me that while one of my stepmother’s brothers was in the hospital getting open-heart surgery, her other brother died of a heart-attack. I guess she had to call my sister to pick up my father. My father is mentally disabled and someone has to be with him at all times. He had a stroke/heart attack over a  decade ago and now can’t remember anything past a couple of minutes ago. So he couldn’t handle being in the hospital all that time and was driving my pris2stepmother nuts. I’m completely useless in any type of situation like this. All I can do is send a card offering my condolences. Even then, only if or when I have the funds to do so. I can’t call her, go help out with my father, help her with anything concerning the funeral, etc. I’m completely impotent to be of any assistance to anyone. That is what breaks you. It’s not just that American society views anyone who is in prison (or who is even simply charged with a crime) as evil, stupid, and worthless. It’s that, with a life without parole sentence you’re daily reminded of just how impotent you are and always will be if you don’t get out. You’re forced to view every family tragedy as a spectator, but with all the emotions of being personally effected which are compounded because you also know you can’t do anything for your family. You can’t take care of them when pris3they’re sick, help them when they need a hand, or even attend a funeral. Being in a supermax with no phone calls also means you learn of the deaths of family and friends weeks after the fact in a letter. Letters you reread over and over hoping that you somehow misread it the first half dozen times. It also means that your family has to watch you suffer as you are denied medical care so the state can save money or some company can increase their profit margin. It means that when you die your family will have to fight to get your body and if there was foul play involved in your death they will have to deal with a cover up to try and learn the truth about what happened inside a closed environment that the public has almost no access to. Not to mention that the local and state police and prison guards are often related to one another, and taking anyone who may be responsible for your loved one’s death to court means going to court in a town where the majority of the jury pool has relatives or friends working in the prison.


March 24, 2011 

pris4My neighbor just received his GED. He was an alcoholic at age 12, sentenced to 48 years in prison for a crime committed at 18. He had a seventh grade education until last week. When he received his GED he was stunned. He told the wing that he never thought he was intelligent enough to be able to accomplish something like that. Now he’s looking to figure out a way to take a paralegal course to help guys with their legal cases, and he’s thinking of going to college in the future. The prison administration has been in his way the entire time. They refused to provide GED testing for years. They only began to do so because we fought for it for so long and so hard that our supporters demanded it as one of the reforms to Tamms. The administration still does not encourage education, but instead discourages it by prohibiting anyone in disciplinary segregation or Level 1 from enrolling. They offer nothing after a GED. Us prisoners are the ones who encouraged my neighbor to enroll and I tutored him. The teachers wouldn’t spend the time. He taught himself mostly. The first A he received on an essay amazed him. He had never known how good it feels 10 accomplish something and receive praise.

I’ve never heard of bigger myths than the three following American aphorisms:

pris51) “Everybody deserves a second chance” (Really? Then how is it that thousands of people are being sentenced to either death or life without parole or its numerical equivalent for first time offenses, many of which were committed as children?):

2) “The land of the free”. (Really? Then why are we the nation with the highest incarceration rates, with only five percent of the world’s population but twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners?); and

3) The term “Criminal Justice System”. (if it is so concerned with justice why are there so many innocent people sitting on death row or in prison? Why does the court system routinely deny prisoners justice by refusing to hear a case or an issue because an uneducated prisoner or incompetent lawyer failed to navigate pris6the most complicated procedural mazes you can imagine? Why are prosecutors vociferously seeking convictions to advance their careers when they have evidence that the defendant is innocent? Why do courts and legislators around the country still prevent defendants from obtaining DNA testing of the evidence to try and clear their name, and refuse to disclose all the evidence or pass open-discovery laws? How is this a just system when it denies the wrongly accused the only evidence that can free them?).

It’s heart-rending to see so many lives thrown away — guilty and innocent. For every one like my neighbor there are ten who never get to have that feeling of accomplishment, and will continue to feel useless, worthless, and incompetent until they die.

 In the next installment of Joseph Dole’s compelling Prison Diary, Mr. Dole will discuss, among other things, phone calls, the need for restraint at the most difficult times, why serving life without parole is so incredibly difficult, and what he thinks about God (or the lack thereof) .


2 Responses to Joseph Dole’s Super-Compelling Super-Max Prison Diary, Part Two

  1. Farjad says:

    He is free. He is not just free from the rules and laws. He is free from the “standards” the boundaries we have been conditioned and mesmerized to “choose” for ourselves. He is so free that he is above all “sociological” and group mindset we so mindlessly and numbingly try to uphold. He is beyond the goods and bads, the timid smiles and the installed etiquettes we think we so choose and are in love with. The epistemological contrast of him being so profoundly unchained and living in a prison suggests an unsettling hint of an underlying need to revolutionize our beloved “civilized” sure ways.

    • Rick says:

      Very nicely said, Farjad. Joseph Dole’s Diaries remind me of the Bob Marley tune, “Redemption Song.” As the immortal Marley wrote and sung: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
      None but ourselves can free our minds.”

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