Gary Cone (b. 1948)
Riverbend Maximum Security Institution
Nashville, Tennessee

In Visiting Day, the acronym on the left L.W.O.P. means “life without parole.” It is an option that attorneys litigating death row cases tend to advocate for their clients. Inmates are divided on the question. Some see it as an alternative worse than death. Cone himself believes, “Death now versus a lingering one…some take this option. I wouldn’t.” The right side of the image illustrates a situation, according to Cone, in which a discarded airport security scanner was donated to Riverbend Prison. The airport was no longer allowed to use it for safety reasons. 

In How to Lose a Year in Four Easy Steps, Cone relates what happened to him when rotten apple juice was found in his cell. He was accused of brewing “juleps”, a homemade prison whiskey (a.k.a pruno, prison wine, hooch) made by mixing together sugar, fruit, and yeast. The liquid is allowed to ferment and is then drunk. Many prisoners have contracted serious food borne illness by consuming prison juleps. The creation of homebrewed liquor is a constant challenge for prisons and each one has their own rules to deter the creation of whiskey, methods for confiscation, and punishment if caught. Cone was sent to solitary confinement for one year due to the liquid found in his cell.

To read Cone's letters, click here. To learn more about Cone and his artwork, visit R.E.A.C.H. 

In 1982, Cone, a Veteran of the Vietnam War and drug addict, was sentenced for the murder of an elderly couple during a robbery. Cone, who for many years was the librarian of the death row unit, is now paraplegic and must be cared for in a special needs facility. He has no access to visitors or educational programs and limited access to books. This is due to an untreated infection on his back while incarcerated.