The assortment of 12 Christmas cards includes smiling Santas and bouquets of holly wrapped in messages of love, an angel of peace playing a flute, a pair of doves floating above mistletoe and fir.
No doubt greeting cards drawn by professional artists, you say? No. They were crafted on Death Row by 10 inmates, two of whom have been executed since their ink drawings first were published.Before his death in September 1987 for killing a probation officer, Joseph Starvaggi envisioned the spirit of Christmas as a floating angel playing the flute as the Star of Bethlehem shines through her wing.
Starvaggi's Angel of Hope is the second most popular card.
The most frequently ordered Death Row design was drawn by Bob Black, 43, convicted for the 1985 contract slaying of his wife. His sketch shows an inmate hunched over a Bible inside a prison cell, barren except for a paper Christmas tree and paper star taped to the wall.
The cards are marketed by Help Our Prisoners Exist, a support group for Death Row inmates and their families, which advocates the abolition of capital punishment. The 12-card assortment sells for $8.
"The cards show that Death Row inmates are sensitive human beings," said Ken Robison, a stepfather of a Death Row inmate and HOPE co-founder.
"A person influenced by drugs or alcohol or mental illness or passionate rage can commit a terrible crime. We can't diminish that fact," Robison said. "That does not take away from the fact that they are caring, creative people, and they have a message."