Award Finalist Urges Giving Voice to People Who Are Incarcerated

Award Finalist Urges Giving Voice to People Who Are Incarcerated

March 19, 2021 | Joe Dole

A megaphone points straight at the camera, obscuring the face of the man holding it.

I wrote “The Case For Why Violent Offenders Deserve Parole” in the months prior to the founding of Parole Illinois, an organization that advocates for sentencing reform and decarceration in general. Having our own organization directed by impacted people gives us a megaphone to be heard. So too do publications and websites that are willing to publish our writings and artwork. Websites like PrisonWriters, The Real Cost of Prisons Project, and Minutes Before Six, which are dedicated to giving the incarcerated a megaphone to society, are imperative to both ensuring that prison walls don’t completely obliterate the firsthand knowledge of incarcerated people and allowing that knowledge to influence the debate over “criminal justice” policies.

Being able to join in these debates gives us agency and the chance to dispute some of the propaganda put out by politicians, the media, and corporations that exploit incarcerated people for their own political or financial gain. It allows us to educate people about conditions in prison and better ways to reduce crime, and we can join conversations concerning all aspects of society. 

Prisons were made to ostracize and marginalize people from society. Rather than keep society safe, however, this works to destroy communities. Even when people commit crimes, they should still be seen as members of the community, able to participate in conversations about how to strengthen communities and society in general.

Joe DoleJoseph Dole was a finalist in the 2020 Media for a Just Society Awards in the Media by a Person Who Is Incarcerated category. His essay, “The Case for Why Violent Offenders Deserve Parole,” was published by Prison Writers. Dole is co-founder and currently the policy director for Parole Illinois. Links to more of his work can be found at, and he can be reached at