Death Row Inmates Offer Scholarships

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A college student who wants to become a police officer is getting aid from an unlikely source: death row inmates.

Zach Osborne was awarded a $5,000 scholarship in June to continue pursuing his degree at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. He is the seventh recipient of the scholarship started in 2001 by convicts on death row to help families of murder victims.

In 1992, Mr. Osborne’s sister, Natalie, age 4, was raped and murdered in Asheboro, N.C., by his mother’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Kandies. Mr. Kandies was on the state’s death row until June 27, when his sentence was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court and returned to a lower court for reconsideration.

Inmates raise money for the scholarship through a newsletter, Compassion, which is distributed free to death row inmates across the country.

“We are trying to restore some of what we tore down,” said Dennis Skillicorn, the newsletter’s editor, who is on death row in Missouri.

He said the newsletter’s panel of editors chose to help Mr. Osborne because “it took a lot of courage and strength to reveal his innermost feelings.”

In his winning essay, Mr. Osborne wrote of how his sister’s death has haunted the family over the years. “After many long years of wasted fury, I have finally been able to forgive Jeff for his crime against my family,” he wrote.

The newsletter was developed at the suggestion of an Ohio death row inmate, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, with the intention of opening lines of communication between death row prisoners and victims’ families. Inmates do not receive money or special consideration for contributing to the newsletter.

The magazine has 5,000 subscribers, and the money it raises goes for the scholarships. No applicant has been turned away empty-handed, said Mr. Skillicorn.

Stephen Dear, the executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, the group that presented the check to Mr. Osborne on the prisoners’ behalf, said the gesture shows that inmates are “human beings who care about the suffering of murder victims’ family members.”

“Nobody is only the worst thing they have ever done. … [T]hese men and women have something positive to offer with their lives,” he said.

Vol. 24, Issue 42, Page 22

Published in Print: July 13, 2005, as Death Row Inmates Offer Scholarships

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