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 25, 2011 5:00 a.m. 

joey4We (Tamms inmates) got some encouraging news. Well sort of. They finally gave us our pin numbers and phone lists, and claim that we will be able to make phone calls beginning next month. Of course they’ve been promising us these phone calls for two years now. (Before that they always told us we would never get phone calls because Tamms was for punishment not privileges. They used to use the excuse that it would be a security threat to provide us with phone calls, yet convicted terrorists in the federal prison ADX in Colorado get phone calls, as do inmates in other supermaxes around the nation; so it’s obviously no security threat.) In December they said we’d get them in January. in January and February they said March, now it’s April. We’ll see. It would be nice to hear my daughters’ voices every month. We only get two 10-15 minutes phone calls each month though.


March 26, 20112:35 p.m.

joey3Once again guys on the wing (Yip and Yap) are kicking the steel doors and screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s driving me nuts as usual. All I want to do is yell “shut the &!$* up!”. Yet I don’t because if I do I’ll just become one more screaming, jabbering idiot and sooner or later pass the point of no return to a state of complete psychological meltdown like so many others down here. It’s impossible to read case-law or concentrate on anything with all this racket. So I’ll work on things that don’t take a lot of deep thought or concentration and listen to the radio loud enough to try and drown out the cacophony (which never works). Hopefully they will wear themselves out in a few hours and I can get back to the rest of my to-do list. We’ll see.

10:45 p.m. 

Well they started up again. Here’s hoping that they don’t have more than an hour and 45 more minutes worth of screaming left in them. Stargate Universe comes on at 12:30 a.m. At least they aren’t kicking the doors. I’m constantly amazed how a sentence with 20 words can consist of only three words that aren’t obscenities and can still convey a thought (or at least an outlandish accusation). It’s an art-form I’m glad I haven’t perfected. Of course listening to it for years on end is a disease to one’s own vocabulary. Till tomorrow.


March 27. 2011 9:10 a.m. 

It’s Sunday morning. Once again Yip and Yap are screaming at each other. I have my earphones in with the radio blaring, destroying my hearing. I’m trying to drown out the noise. Unfortunately people have their cell lights on so it makes the radio real staticky (I have no idea how to spell that word. “Staticky” is probably wrong but “staticy” seems wrong as well. Is that even a proper word? I can’t recall ever seeing it in print).

joe2My writer’s block is gone. The music and yelling are making it difficult to compose my thoughts, but I’d like to expound on why I have such a hard time coping with being incarcerated with a life-without-parole sentence and confined in a supermax prison with the plethora of restrictions solitary confinement entails, for years and years on end.

What makes prison so hard is having ambition, dreams, goals, and wanting to do right and accomplish positive things. Prison is conducive to none of these. It’s so much easier to not care about life, not learn, not grow intellectually, not mature. It’s easier to just hate-hate life, hate people, hate yourself. Striving to do something with your life, especially under these conditions make every day that much harder. It’s always easiest to destroy or ignore. Hardest to care and build up yourself, other people, society, etc. It’s easier for people to give up – on themselves, their children, others. It’s why society finds it so easy to automatically demonize and write off anyone convicted or even charged with a crime without even knowing for certain whether he or she is guilty, or the circumstances surrounding the incident. All they need to know is that he or she is a “suspect” or a prisoner, or arrested for X crime, etc. It’s much harder to look into the situation before making a judgment; harder to have compassion; harder to deal with the societal ills or root causes of crime. It’s so much easier to be smug and sanctimonious. Easier to be deliberately indifferent to what is happening in your community until it adversely effects you and then just scream for revenge, rather than to try to understand how things came about. I know, that’s how I used to be in my youth. Selfish, indifferent, not a care in the world.

That’s also the easiest way to do a prison bit. It’s safest to only look out for yourself. It’s easiest to not care about your family and their struggles. It’s easiest to sit around and read urban novels and watch the idiot box all day, not doing the hard work to try to accomplish anything with your life. Not fighting for your rights or the rights of others, not sticking up for or lending a hand to anyone.

I can’t live like that. I want to make a difference and accomplish as much as I possibly can with the remaining grains of sand which plummet all to quickly in my inner hour glass.

joey2I want to be a good father to my two beautiful daughters. I can’t do that from in here — no matter how much I try. A prerequisite to being a good father is being there for your child. I can’t be there for them, so I fight with every ounce in me to change that. Oh how easy it would be to not write them every week when they don’t write me for months. How much heartache and stress it would save me not to constantly worry about how their health, grades, and lives are, and how my being here is affecting them or how it will impact their lives in the long run. How easy it would be to give up on all my avenues of appeal and collateral attacks on my conviction and sentence and just quit on life, becoming a bunk potato for the next five decades.

It would be so easy to harden my heart and not worry about how my family is doing, not care about the thousands of problems facing our communities and country. It would be so easy to not study all these issues, not write proposals, articles, reports, etc. Not stress about how I am so impotent to make a difference from in here. It would be so easy to cease trying to understand others point of view, to show compassion, or to forgive those who have done me wrong. It would be so easy to repay every wrong done to me with an equal or greater wrong. it would be so easy (and save me so many headaches and hours of my days) to be deliberately indifferent to anyone else’s struggles, and refuse to help them in any way.

It would have been so easy to remain that selfish, crass, ass that I was in my youth.

joey5Instead I choose the struggle. I fight. No longer with my fists or over pride. Instead I fight to rescue my life from being a complete waste. I care nothing about the “next life”. I do nothing out of fear of any God. I couldn’t tell you if any God exists. I’ve never seen an ounce of proof that one does exist, let alone that he intercedes in our lives. I believe in neither heaven nor hell. I worry about this life and making the most of what time I have here.

Why don’t I worry about the “next life” or if there’s a God? Because I believe one thing that most religions seem to reject. That if there is a God, and I’m living my life trying to help others — be a good parent, friend, neighbor, and citizen solely because I choose to care about others, then He or She will be much more satisfied that I am living right for the sake of living right than if I did it out of fear of God or was trying to rack up points, treasures, virgins, etc. in heaven. If God requires me to care only that I believe some story which requires me to suspend logic or common sense to believe it, or that I must bow to Him or Her out of fear or self- interest, then I’m not interested in the next life or stroking God’s ego.

I don’t know how I went off on a religious tangent. Oh well. As I was saying though — when you have any ambition, dreams, goals, worry about your family, etc. it all makes living in prison all the more difficult because accomplishing anything or being there for anyone is a thousand times more difficult. You’re isolated in a cocoon of cement, steel, and insanity, where your resources are negligible and the whole of society is against you.

joey6All I want is to make the most of my life and not waste another single grain of my sand. It’s hard though when I’m constantly being persuaded that all society wants is for me to die so that the state can save some money and open up a bed for another they’ve deemed worthless. I see it in the denial of my rights, the denial of adequate medical care, in the illogical, unjust, and factually erroneous decisions handed down by court after court. I see it where every portrayal of a prisoner on television is of a sadistic, homosexual rapist or baby killer. I see it where education for prisoners is seen as a waste of resources even when every study ever conducted shows it saves more money than it costs, so eliminating educational programs is counter-productive not only to balancing the budget but also to the safety of society.

Yet it is done over and over. Why? Because it’s so much easier to hate prisoners and be deliberately indifferent to both the facts and the toll on humanity, than it is to care about another human being and try to understand him or her. Understand that an 18-year-old kid with a third grade education whose only family was a gang — which he or she would do anything they could to please because it was the only love they ever received — and who had already been an alcoholic and drug addict for a third of his or her life, may not make great decisions as a kid. That kid doesn’t need a 50 year prison sentence. That kid needs our help; needs it long before they commit a crime; needs it even when they are incarcerated; needs treatment, education, hope for a better future. What he or she doesn’t need is to be constantly told that they are evil, worthless, despised, and not worth anyone’s care, consideration, or assistance.

I’ve met so many guys in here that have only ever felt pride in doing things that are self- destructive, or detrimental to others. I’ve met too many teenagers with natural life sentences or fifty or five-hundred year sentences. That is what disgusts me. Everyone makes mistakes. What is scary is when society collectively and deliberately throws away so many of its young people, and then justifies its actions with knowingly false rhetoric, playing on people’s fears or desires for revenge, or desire to feel superior to someone else. Or even worse, as part of an industry — passing harsher and harsher laws to feed the private prison industry or to satisfy unions worried about job security.

 In the next installment of Joseph Dole’s compelling Prison Diary, Mr. Dole will discuss, among other things, some of the frustrations inherent in the subtle yet banal world of prison discourse and the sheer hell of going to see Dr. Death, the facility “physician”, with an embarrassing physical ailment.

Click here to read Parts One and Two of Joseph Dole’s Prison Diaries:

Joseph Dole’s Compelling Super-Max Prison Diary, Part One

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



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

  1. Rick says:

    It is an utter waste of societal resources to lock someone up as eloquent and thoughtful as Joseph for LWOP! Our criminal “justice” system is almost completely irrational. If we spent a fraction of the resources that we spend on the prison industrial complex to cure some of the ills of society, we’d be a much healthier country. Then again, doesn’t every American have a right to own a gun? Of course.

    • liselasalle says:

      I agree Rick. And someone like Joseph Dole would like to contribute to the betterment of others and society. And he is not given any opportunities to be productive.

      They let him rot in a cell with no stimulation.

      The money drained by prisons should be used wisely for restorative justice and social programs.
      The US is shooting itself in the foot with its ridiculous gun laws or lack thereof.

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