Editor’s note: Behind the scenes of this issue

Welcome to the July print edition of the RN&R!  

This issue contains two separate articles about prisons. The cover story is about Frank De Palma, a Reno man who spent 43 years in prison—including 22 years straight in solitary confinement. These days, he’s working with a team of prison-reform experts to change state laws that govern solitary confinement, which is used with unusual frequency in Nevada.  

Jessica Santina’s art story is about a group exhibition organized by local curator Frances Melhop. The show features works by artists from near and far who deal with various prison-related themes. One artist is a former inmate from the United Kingdom who makes LSD blotter art. Another is a local, Glynn Cartledge, who spent 25 years working as a criminal defense attorney. The show is hanging in a venue I never would have expected—the decommissioned Nevada State Prison in Carson City. 

In case you’re wondering, having two prison articles was a coincidence. People sometimes ask me how various things work behind the scenes at the RN&R, so here’s how this particular coincidence occurred.  

I learned about the prison-art exhibition from Frances last August, when it was in the early stages of planning. Her work is always thought-provoking and top-notch, and this idea sounded potentially groundbreaking, so I earmarked it then for summer 2024 publication. 

Frank’s story came to my attention in May, when Mary Buser, a criminal-justice reform advocate based in New York, wrote to ask if we might mention the book that Frank De Palma had just published. It just so happened that a new RN&R contributor, Max Stone— who is also a poet and an impressively meticulous wordsmith—was interested and available. Max read Frank’s book; we then talked about a reporting plan and agreed that an in-depth cover story would be the best format for the topic. 

I learned a lot from these two stories—and I hope you do, too.