Our Work – Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph

Our Work

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, has been a tireless crusader against the death penalty since 1981 when she became spiritual advisor to a convicted killer on death row in New Orleans. This experience opened her eyes to the execution process, and prompted her to write the book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in 1994. It reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller List where it stayed for 31 weeks, and in 1996 was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. The film was written and directed by Tim Robbins, and later earned numerous Oscar nominations.

Since then, Dead Man Walking has been translated into ten languages, was the basis of an opera and numerous play adaptations, and most importantly, opened up the conversation about the use of the death penalty in the United States. Sister Helen has appeared on almost every major news outlet and has won numerous awards for her work. Having witnessed five executions in Louisiana, she is widely regarded as a foremost expert on the subject.

She continues to educate the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing and writing. Her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was published in December 2004, and a biography on her life, Helen Prejean, Death Row’s Nun, was published in 2017.

Sister Helen has a strong presence on Facebook and other social media and as the founder of “Survive,” a victim’s advocacy group in New Orleans, continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but the families of murder victims as well.

For more information, click here to be directed to Sister Helen’s website.

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