The woman instrumental in the making of the 1995 Oscar-nominated film “Dead Man Walking,” starring Sean Penn will speak at Central Oregon Community College on Feb. 24.
Sister Helen Prejean began her prison ministry in 1981. After becoming pen pals with convicted killer Patrick Sonnier who was sentenced to die by electric chair, Prejean repeatedly visited him as his spiritual advisor.
She turned her experience into a book which was nominated for a 1993 Pulitzer Prize, an American prize awarded for distinction in the arts.
The book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States” was developed into a major motion picture which received four Oscar nominations.
“On this issue people have not been reflecting about it very much. It’s been like yeah people do terrible crimes. We hear the politicians tell us all the time we got to execute them, end of discussion,” said Prejean on the impact of the book and film. “Most people are not affected directly personally by the death penalty. This is making them think about it and also to experience it through the film in a very visceral way. Not just rationally,” Prejean said in a Frontline interview.
Her most recent writing, “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions” was published in 2004 and tells the story of two men whom she accompanied to their executions, and believes both were innocent.
In her 15 years of this work, Prejean has witnessed five executions in Louisiana. Since 1995 she has received over 100 peace awards and honorary degrees.
Prejean has served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1985 to 1995 and as Chairperson of the Board from 1993-1995. She presently is the Honorary Chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, a group gathering signatures for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.
Prejean has been featured in multiple magazines and publications and her story has been the subject of numerous media stories and reviews featured in different countries including U.S, Canada, Spain, England and more. She continues to counsel inmates on death row and the families of murder victims. Prejean also educates the public about the death penalty through lectures and writings.
“Someone from campus suggested we invite Sister Helen Prejean because her message of eliminating the death penalty seemed to be consistent with our theme of non-violence for our Season of Non-violence,” said Director of Multicultural Activites Karen Roth.
– Feb. 24 1 p.m. , Redmond Public Library
– Feb. 24 6:30 p.m. , Pinckney Center, COCC Bend Campus
– Free and open to the public
Sister Helen Prejean’s website: http://www.prejean.org/
Lauren Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com