“[My pen pal] committed his crime at age 19, after enduring many many years of poverty, hunger, and emotional neglect by his disinterested mother. Since his incarceration, he has had to rely upon the good will of others to meet his very basic needs. I feel that I am more than able to help him. I feel privileged that he is my sweet pen pal and friend. I recently visited him and assured him of my friendship and support. He is a precious, dear soul who deserves so much more than has been given to him. I am so very grateful to have the opportunity to help him, through my friendship, as well as my financial support.”
“Thank you so much for this! I truly feel that my friendship with Josh is a gift from God, and from you, for both of us.”
— Susan Koster, Jacksonville, Florida

“I am just writing to thank you for putting me in contact with Kosoul [on death row in Texas]. We have been writing since January, and have begun a great friendship. I write to him every week, if not every two weeks, and he does the same. He draws pictures for me (he is insanely talented), gives me advice and is just what a friend should be. It’s been great getting to know him, and I’m sure we will remain friends always. At 14 I’d always wanted a penpal, someone to write to, a friend. I never would’ve imagined that I would’ve found that with Kosoul. It has opened my eyes, and given me a deeper insight to forgiveness. Once again, thank you. I hope you can give many more people the opportunity to find a friend within someone on death row. Good luck for the future, and continue doing what you’re doing.”
— Scarlett in Wales

“Penpals are really lifelines to those in prison, especially on death row. It is my prayer that I can help them realize that they are created in the Image of God and that no matter what our culture says, Christ loves them and wants them to know it.”
— Tim McDonald

“…I’ve been writing to W.J., who is on death row in Florida, for nearly a year now, and I have been amazed at his honesty, his intelligence, his seeking, and his spirituality. I’m not sure, looking back, what I expected, but I didn’t expect to be engaged in a life-changing correspondence with a man both I and my husband have come to care deeply about…”

Read more

“This is to tell you of the joy your project brought to my life and time on death row. You gave my name to a lady named Jackie. She wrote to me, which became a very joyous friendship.”
– David Coulter (resentenced to life without parole in Alabama)

“We enjoy the opportunity to share with Jim through letters–we have learned a lot about the prison life–and its toll on a person. Through DRSP we have a new awareness, as a family, of the inhumanity of the death penalty and have been able to help others see the folly of such a form of punishment. Thanks so much for providing such a tremendous outreach opportunity!”
– Ginny and Steve Mason

“I have written to James Cochran for about five years now. I have visited him once and I plan to visit him again next month. The relationship has been not only educational for me, but more importantly, it has been inspirational. I am deeply touched by James’ struggle to live a faithful life in the midst of such chaos and oppression. I suggest that anyone entering into a relationship such as this do so with an openness to being themselves converted through the relationship to greater openness and reverence for anyone in prison circumstances.”
– Marilyn Wall C.S.J.

“I continue to be richly blessed by my decade-plus-long friendship with Alphonso … Honestly, he has become one of the best friends I have ever had. He continues to amaze me … has never asked for anything, but so much appreciates anything I have been able to do for him.”
– Ken C. Furman

“Twelve years ago … you introduced me to Ken Furman, who has become my very best friend/my family. He has changed my life, I can honestly say that knowing him over these past twelve years has made me a better human being.”
– Alphonso Cave (on Florida death row since 1982)

“I received a letter from a pen pal by your help and wanted to let you know your efforts are appreciated. Groups like yours help us tremendously and we – I – am glad you are there.”
– James Hitchcock (on Florida death row since 1977)

“I’m sorry to report that my pen pal Arthur Boyd was executed by lethal injection at 2:08 a.m. on Thursday, October 21, 1999….Arthur was a person of faith whose deep religious convictions had convinced him that the murder he had committed was wrong. Yet he also wrote to the parents of his victim. He asked for their forgiveness.”
– Thomas Hanks

Read more

“I am finding it a continuous source of learning and a challenge to almost everything I have learned, mislearned, and believed about crime and punishment, good and evil, perceptions of death row, and the media and political machinations surrounding this issue.”
– Scott Douglas

“At first I thought that everyone had forgotten all about me, but I was wrong. The Thomson family has really lifted my spirits. It’s nice to know that there are people who care.”
– William Hance (executed in 1994 in Georgia)

“I feel that getting involved with the Death Row Support Project was the best thing I’ve done….I was very hesitant to get involved with this project but it has helped me understand the prison situation and the hopelessness of these men. I highly encourage my Christian friends to try out this program.”
– Lanette Hewlett

“So many times in the past twelve or more years, I’ve thought of your tiny ad in our church paper and have been so grateful that you provided the means of bringing James into our family. We’ve watched him change from a hopeless man on Death Row, hard as nails, his language less than nice.”   
– Ruth Dalgleish

Read more

“I have been corresponding with Betty and her family on a regular basis and few things in my life have given me more pleasure. It is most gratifying to realize there are people who will offer a helping hand to us who society has condemned, while knowing we have violated those standards they hold sacred. To me that is truly love for your fellow man.

When I first received a letter from Betty Ann Porter around 1978 while on Texas’ Death Row, it gave me the support to hope more than I can describe. My sentence was commuted to life in October 1982. After that I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Sam Houston State University in 1988. I can truthfully say I never received a major write-up for the thirty years, six months and two days of my incarceration. I tell you this because it proves that even though society dismissed me with a death sentence in 1974, I overcame and presented my mother with a son before she passed away who had completely reformed his life while in prison. I thought of a saying while confined that says, ‘You don’t start staying out of prison while you’re out; you start staying out of prison while you’re in.’ That not only applies to those incarcerated for various crimes, but to those on Death Row also. So I say to those men on Death Row to never give up hope and to start thinking about straightening out their lives even while on Death Row.

I am currently 82 years old and living on a farm in East Texas, acting as caretaker and enjoying life.”- Doyle G. Boulware (re-sentenced in Texas, then released in 2004)

“Over seven years ago, I read an article appealing to people to correspond with death row inmates…. My contact with the Death Row Support Project was the beginning of my work with the abolition movement in this country. I now spend much of my time working to keep the death penalty out of New York where I live and to end it in the U.S. It is no longer just a political or moral issue, it is a personal one. The studies and statistics back my position, but they are not the real reason for my commitment. I have come to know that we as a society are killing real human beings and, in doing so, we reverse the roles; they become the victims and we become the killers..”   
– Pat Bane, July 28, 1987

Read more

“Nearly three weeks ago, a friend of mine, Jesse Walter Bishop, was executed by the state of Nevada. In the 11 months or so we corresponded, I have been privileged to become aware of his deep humanity and insight into life. I am not trying to portray Jess as a saint, but just as a person. But now another family has lost a loved one, a brother, a son. All this done in the name of instilling respect of human life into people.”
– Jim Harris

“‘It all started to seem pointless,’ he told me. Do you know what turned things around [for him]? Finding someone to write who he could connect with… Just to have them in his life expanded his world, which seemed to be nothing but prison. I believe this is what was crushing his spirit. No more plans to drop any appeals. Do you see what I’m saying? The work you do does make a difference. It can literally save a life!”   
– Steve Stein (on Florida death row since 1991)

Read more

“I don’t think it is for everybody. There have been times when I felt like quitting – but hung in there anyway. I believe God has honored my persistence in many ways. Phil and I have learned much from each other. It has been a give/take kind of thing.”
– Karen McIntyre

“Writing to someone keeps me with a sound mind while faced with continued lock-down inside this cell day in and day out. Many often go nuts by not finding something to do. We are sociable by nature; to be shut off from life and those everyday normal activities sends many men in this situation over that edge to insanity.”
– Andre Staton (on Pennsylvania death row since 2006)

“I’m writing to thank you for this opportunity to make a new friendship and enrich my life! Jathiyah and I have become fast friends already and we share a great deal in common! I feel as if I have known this gentleman for a long time.”
– Chari DuMond-Alie

“Death Row Support Project is a great thing you’re doing. I don’t know if I could have made it through the past two years without the pen pal you found for me. She helped me through some hard times, and I owe it all to you. So thank you very much!”
– Ronald W. Clark, Jr. (on Florida death row since 1991)

Read a reflection written after the execution of Troy Davis

“I’ve been sitting here thinking of you. I still don’t have a pen-friend so I thought I’d write you. I just need someone to talk with.”
– Letter from Mike on death row in Ohio

Read more

This quilt illustrates the light and hope brought to those on death row through letters written by caring individuals. Read the artist’s statement about the quilt.