Helen Prejean

Helen Prejean Helen Prejean ©prejean.org

Sister Helen Prejean, internationally-renowned author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

In 1957 she entered the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille (the Congregation of St. Joseph) and received her B.A. from St. Mary's Dominican College, New Orleans. In 1973, she earned an M.A. in Religious Education from St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Canada.

Sister Helen's prison ministry began in 1981 when she committed herself to a ministry with the poor of New Orleans. After starting a correspondence with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to death by the electric chair in Louisiana's Angola State Prison, she became his spiritual advisor and visited him regularly. Sister Helen developed a firsthand understanding of the process of execution in Louisiana's prisons and gained a broader view of the death penalty in the United States. These experiences were the germination of and material for her New York Times-bestseller book, Dead Man Walking, published in 1993 which received international recognition. She wrote The Death of Innocents in 2005, a further examination of America's shamefully flawed justice system and its not-infrequent conviction and execution of innocent people.  Sister Helen has been nationally and internationally active in her mission to end the death penalty and wrongful executions and is admired worldwide for speaking out for justice for the poor in the name of Jesus Christ.