In 2003, at the suggestion of a Stateville inmate, Renaldo Hudson, and with the help of Katy Ryan and Bill Ryan, a prison essay contest was held. Due to the overwhelming number of excellent submissions Katy and Bill received, a collection of the entries was eventually published in a book, titled Lockdown Prison Hearts. In an effort to keep the unique outpouring of creativity alive, ongoing inmate submissions were solicited and collected, along with a few "newsworthy" prison articles. Building upon this collection, the concept of a prison newsletter came into being, and the first edition of Stateville Speaks was published in June of 2004.
Initial editions of the newsletter were relatively simple, comprised of mimeographed pages, and had a circulation of over 200 readers. Today, the typical Stateville Speaks newsletter is about 20 pages long, contains photos, editorial cartoons, poetry and original artwork, and boasts a circulation of over 3,500 readers.
Following a brief sponsorship in 2009 by Loyola University, the Justice Studies Department of NEIU became the permanent home for the newsletter in the form of a student internship. Under the direction of its current editor, Gayle Tulipano, Stateville Speaks not only gives voice to those who are incarcerated in Illinois prisons, but the accompanying internship gives Justice Studies majors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in many aspects of the justice system: lobbying in Springfield for prison reform; visiting prisoners at various Illinois prison facilities; talking with parolees and members of the parole board; participating in the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and, of course, publishing an issue of Stateville Speaks.
During the course of their internship, students research, write, assemble, edit and proof material for publication in this unique prison newsletter and, in the process, acquire a fundamental knowledge of the ubiquitous prison philosophy within the U.S., and within the Illinois State Prison System in particular.
Stateville Speaks could not continue its mission of giving a voice to Illinois' prison population, nor offer such a matchless educational experience for NEIU students were it not for the generous financial support it receives from Cynthia Kobel, as well as the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Foundation, for which Ms. Kobel is the Executive Director. Stateville Speaks also receives ongoing support from the NEIU Foundation. Additional support comes from individual subscriptions, and from persons who take out annual subscriptions that are then provided at no cost to incarcerated individuals. It is often the only mail they get all year.
Stateville Speaks Archive
Following are links to PDF versions of each edition of Stateville Speaks since its launch in 2004.