Joseph Grosso was awarded 2nd Place in Nonfiction Essay in the 2022 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.


Nietzsche proclaimed that “God is dead, and WE have killed him,” but Nietzsche has clearly never been locked up. While belief in God may be dwindling in the U.S. and other first world countries, God is very much alive in the U.S. Prison system.

In fact, there is so much of it in prison that one might wonder why all the prisoners haven’t miraculously transcended out of the prison walls and into a new paradise; all being forgiven and redeemed. While there are a few heathens, heretics, and atheists sprinkled about the population (present author included), I don’t think this is the reason for any lack of transcendence.

According to one inmate, whom I unfortunately came to know all too well, the reason is that often prisoners do not completely give themselves over to God. I’ll never forget that one time when Stabby McGee came and sat next to me at chow. I was trying my best to choke down the rabbit feed they give us here (Modified Vegetable Protein Pellets) when Stabby took a seat next to me.

To finish reading this, as well as the works of all other contributors, purchase Variations on an Undisclosed Location: 2022 Prison Writing Awards Anthology here.