Formerly incarcerated Philly man wins Pulitzer Prize for podcast about reentering society after prison

A formerly incarcerated Philadelphia man won a Pulitzer Prize Award for his work co-hosting a podcast about reentering society after decades behind bars.

Luis "Suave" Gonzalez was jailed as a teen and spent over 30-years in the prison system. He was released from custody in 2017 and has spent his new lease on life working hard to give back and make his own way. 

Suave is a self-taught artist with work displayed and sold at Morton Contemporary Gallery in Center City. He launched the Mural Arts Restorative Justice Program while incarcerated in Graterford Prison. 

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Suave created a ‘Heroes of the Day’ exhibit that honored 100 essential workers. And every Christmas Suave provides a shopping spree for families impacted by gun violence. 

"I was given a second chance for a reason," Suave said. "So every good that I do goes toward that you made the right decision in letting the right person out of prison."

Suave isn't trying to forget his life behind bars, instead he's sharing his experience as a way to advocate for formerly incarcerated people who reenter society. His podcast "Suave" that he co-hosts with Maria Hinojosa recently won the Pulitzer Prize Award. 

"I wasn't chasing no award, I just wanted people to hear the hardship that it takes when someone comes home after decades in prison and we manage to capture that," Suave said. 

The award is a result of bearing his soul to let other offenders know you can return to society and better yourself and your community. 

"You had to confront yourself with the reality that somebody is dead, and you was part of that, and you have to confront that," Suave said. "You can't get away from that but at the same time you can turn it around and make it better for the children coming up in your community."

He hopes his Pulitzer Prize also inspires those who are incarcerated. 

"Here you got a guy from North Philadelphia, who went to prison for 31 years, learned how to read and write in prison, winning the highest award in journalism for telling a story we hear every day in the community. That is amazing, and I want people to know never give up."

Suave's podcast can be found on Apple, Spotify and other podcast platforms.