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Leading advocate to abolish death penalty to speak at Randolph

Sister Helen Prejean (photo credit: Scott Langley)

Sister Helen Prejean (photo credit: Scott Langley)

Sister Helen Prejean, one of the leading voices in the national movement to abolish the death penalty, will give a free, public lecture at Randolph College on Tuesday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Houston Memorial Chapel. A book signing will follow the lecture.

A member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, based in New Orleans, La., Prejean has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions. She spent her first years with her nun sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that helping the poor is an essential part of the Gospel, she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and worked at the Hope House from 1981–1984.

During this time, she began corresponding with Patrick Sonnier, a death row inmate at Angola State Prison. She later became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, Prejean wrote a book about the experience entitled, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. It went on to become a movie, an opera, and a play for high schools and colleges.

Since 1984, Prejean has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths and suspects that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which was released by Random House in December 2004. She is currently working on another book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

In addition to Prejean’s public lecture on March 27, Randolph will host a screening of the movie adaptation of Dead Man Walking on Tuesday, March 20 at 7 p.m. in Nichols Theatre. The screening is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.



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