Rare books, signed art, ephemera and coffee mugs are just a few of the things Rutherford County Correctional Work Center Director William (Bill) Cope collects, but he also occasionally passes those items on to new owners.
On October 17, Cope donated a unique artifact that had been in his personal collection for over 20 years. The artifact was a handwritten warrant dated April 10, 1868 addressed to the Sheriff of Sevier County, Tennessee. The recipient of this nearly 150-year-old artifact was the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Alcatraz East is 24,000 square feet, two stories, and is themed as a 19th-century prison, inspired by the infamous Alcatraz island prison in San Francisco. Alcatraz East includes interactive displays and artifacts that cover criminal intent, criminal profiles, the penal system, victims’ stories, law enforcement, crime prevention, forensic science, and the United States justice system.
“It was time it found its way back home to Sevier County. Alcatraz East has the means and resources to preserve and display the document for others to see and learn from,” says Cope.
When asked what’s next for his collection and/or donations, Cope said “I also photograph old prisons. I’ve shot Alcatraz in California, Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, Mansfield Reformatory in Ohio, and many more.” Though he’s never gained access Sing Sing in New York, Cope says, “I do have some items that would look nice in their museum, so maybe we can work something out.”
Cope has served the county for nearly two decades, overseeing the educational, evidenced based and rehabilitation programs for inmates at both the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center and the Correctional Work Center.