Last updated on: 8/10/2018 | Author:

Helen Prejean, MA Biography

Anti-Death Penalty Activist and Catholic Nun of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille
Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“I say in my talks that the death penalty epitomizes the deepest wounds in our society, which are militarism, poverty, and racism! We’ve got a social problem, so we send in the Marines. We target the enemy, dehumanize, terminate him. It’s that same war-making spirit that makes the death penalty…

We are just beginning to see a thaw in a huge glacier that we’ve been locked into with the death penalty since 1976. At least six states have initiatives for a moratorium, most recently in Illinois. Polls show that support is dropping. It’s down to sixty-one percent from seventy-five percent. In 1999 it dropped five percent.

I think people are more aware of the eighty-seven innocent people that have now come off of Death Row, that the supposed best criminal justice system in the world has a lot of flaws in it. I think it’s raised consciousness about the death penalty, and how we don’t need it.”

“One Woman Talking: An Interview With Sister Helen Prejean,” Fellowship of Reconciliation website, May-June 2000

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Catholic Nun, Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, 1957-present
  • Prision Ministry, 1981-present
  • Honorary Cahir, Moratorium Campaign
  • Former Board Member, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 1985-1995
  • Author of Dead Man Walking (1993) which became a film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn
  • Member, Amnesty International
  • Honorary member, Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation
  • Former Religious Education Director, St. Frances Cabrini Parish, New Orleans
  • Former junior and senior high school teacher
  • MA, Religious Education, St. Paul’s University, 1973
  • BA, English and Education, St. Mary’s Dominican College, 1962
  • Recipient of dozens of awards and honorary degrees from all over the world