'Dead Man Walking' author to discuss death penalty


Acclaimed "Dead Man Walking" author and activist Sister Helen Prejean will discuss the death penalty and social justice in a pair of presentations Thursday, March 27 at Southwestern Illinois College.

Sister Helen will present "Dead Man Walking - The Journey Continues" at 2 p.m. in the Theatre and 7 p.m. in the Varsity Gym at the SWIC Belleville Campus, 2500 Carlyle Ave. Book signings will immediately follow each presentation, and books will be available for purchase.

Both lectures are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats at swic.edu/rsvp to ensure sufficient seating.

Sister Helen has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping shape the Catholic Church's opposition to state execution. She travels around the world speaking at schools and churches about her ministry.

Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. While working at the St. Thomas Housing Project and Hope House in New Orleans from 1984-1986, she agreed to correspond with death row inmate Patrick Sonnier at the Louisiana State Penitentiary and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote the book, "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States." The book served as the basis for the 1995 Oscar-winning movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, and later was developed into an opera, and a play for high schools and colleges.

Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling death row prisoners. The realization that some inmates were innocent inspired her second book, "The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions," in 2004.

She is working on another book, "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey."

The film "Dead Man Walking" will be shown March 6 at 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. in the Sam Wolf Granite City Campus History Room.

The stage play "Dead Man Walking" will be performed March 26, 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. in the Belleville Campus Main Complex Theatre. No tickets are required. The play is produced by special arrangement with Tim Robbins and the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project.

These events are part of the college's Women's History Month celebration, Herstory. For more information on events, visit fac.swic.edu/herstory.