The ship in the bottle
By James, 49 years old, with a life sentence in Texas

Although my pen friend is not a fan of ice hockey (or any sports for that matter), naming her ship in a bottle the S.S. Florence Schelling was, to me, just as creative as the building and the placing of the ship. And, while honoring a pioneer of women’s professional hockey in the naming of this vessel, I also honored my friend – my caring, thoughtful, and inspiring friend – with a unique gift. Sure, it’s made from old book covers, scrap paper, and discarded bits of wood and sewing thread – but from that junk, trash and garbage, something very creative emerged.

All in all, I feel everyone has a creative gene in them somewhere, and it’s just a matter of finding the inspiration, the spark, to ignite it.


Description of how I made the lighthouse
By M., Florida, 48 years old, on death row in Florida for 26 years

I will tell you a little how it is made. Except for the mirror it is all cardboard, paper, and glue. I make each brick one at a time, set them in place one at a time. I use the envelopes your letters come in, soak them in water for several days, gently rub them until they disintegrate into a mush, like paper oatmeal.

I use chalk dust to color this mush, add a little glue. I built a mold for each size and shape of brick, push the mush into a mold, pop out a brick and let it dry.

I have a small ruler, but basically just eyeball most of the construction. We are not allowed scissors or craft knives, so all of the cuts were made with fingernail clippers.

The mirror is plastic and scratches easily, if you want to clean it use a cotton swab. It must not get wet!

When I first thought to make a gift for you the lighthouse was an obvious choice.


A gift for you – Three-dimensional card
By an inmate with a life sentence at the Wynne Unit, Texas, 2019


Mommy where’s Daddy?
By Richard, Texas, 64 years old, in prison in Texas for 14 years, 2018

When I made the death row card so many people in here asked me why I was making such a morbid card. I explained that it was for a good cause and they thought it was nice. I’ve had a few guys I went to school with be executed. They made terrible mistakes, like killing a police officer. I know for a fact that they just needed love in their lives. When you don’t know any good people it’s hard to believe they actually exist.


For a special friend
By Richard, Texas, 64 years old, in prison in Texas for 14 years, 2018

When I make a card for people it’s a labor of love. I never could draw a strait line, but I was given a couple of colored pencils by an inmate that was going home, and that has been thirteen years ago.
I long to have real brushes and paint, and go to beautiful places and do scenes of beauty. You don’t get beautiful scenes in prison, or things to inspire you, so I look at pictures and change them so I won’t be stealing another’s art.

Holidays Missed Dreams, pop-up card



is what
does so I’m
you this
rose as an
of my
special love
for you.


Do not forget me, pop-up card
By Daniel, 38 years old, 13 years in prison in Texas

As I worked on this card, I was reminded of everything outside of these walls. All that I miss. What I lost. Nature called to me, so as I worked the quilling around the clouds and poem, I could feel a cool breeze, hear birds, and imagine lifting my head up to the Sun. Then I opened the card and returned to my current reality. As I move, walls encase my world. I move all the time, so I see a lot of various passages, marks, and suggestions on walls. I created the wall(s) inside this card to symbolize what I see and endure on a daily basis. Imagine each block is a whole wall, every individual block represents just one of the walls in the many cells I move to. Each expression, mark, note, is a window into the minds of those who came before me. And because I am a part of their community here, I am surrounded with those ideas all the time.
The bars are the harshest part of my reality, outside of the walls. It is the bars that provide a means to see, while also restricting movement. They are how I sought to express the window into some of my dark thoughts. Seeing all of what could drag me down in here. I am still connected to the outer world, just not the way I would like to be. As I live – exist – in here, I fight to not be dragged down, and broken by the burdens of confinement. Do not forget me.


Dream catchers
By Will, 62 years old, 15 years on death row

I think that death row is not a life, it is a state of mind.
So, to better interpret what my state of mind can be, I contribute these “dream catchers” which I have fabricated as an example of just one of the ways to occupy my mind in such a dismal environment.

As many of you might already know, a dream-catcher is sort of a “totem” to Native American Indians. This totem is meant to be able to catch bad dreams and night mares so that one may have restful sleep. J Here on death row we sleep when we can, not when we want to. So I occupy my mind with books, puzzle magazines, artwork such as the dream-catchers, and reading letters that I receive from folks such as you who visit connectdeathrow. If you have any questions on how I fabricate the dream catchers, or any question that may be on your mind, please send your inquiries. Also, please know, whether you are death penalty pro or con, I want to answer your questions. I am a grown man, and I accept the responsibilities of my actions. Can you accept the fact that you have access to a man who is condemned to a place where life is death, and is willing to let you in on his state of mind??


Texas Department of Criminal Justice, pop-up card
By Esteban Ch., 43 years old, 22 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Frustration is how this drawing began. Frustration with the way I perceive the prison system as being ran. From my eyes the system is a money making machine; take care of our own and cut cost at all cost. Frustration with how I hear some people in the free world think that there is rehabilitation being offered in here.

By the time I started to see my thoughts take shape on paper I was in a more relaxed / calm state of mind because when I draw it is my form of meditation. My time to think on my family and loved ones.

When I am through with this drawing, as with all the others, I will once again be frustrated with how the system is being ran.