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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Sr. Helen Prejean speaks on insights from work in death-row ministry

“Thou Shall Not Kill—A Spokane Event” features Sister Helen Prejean, speaking at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, in Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University, following a performance of the one-act play, “Dead Man Walking,” based on her experiences in death-row ministry.

Organizer Victoria Ann Thorpe, founder of the Fellowship of Peace Foundation that works to end the death penalty and promote prison reform, said the event will educate people on the death penalty and the need to repeal it in Washington State.

Spokane students and community members will perform the play, and Sr. Helen’s talk will open discussion on civil rights for people on death row.

The play gives insights into the complexity of issues, the moral dilemma associated with killing human beings and what the death penalty says about a society, Victoria said.

In 1982, Sister Helen began to correspond with a death row inmate.  She became his spiritual advisor during his last months.  After witnessing his execution by electric chair, she wrote about her experience in the

bestselling book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. Tim Robbins adapted the book into a movie and a play for high schools and colleges.

Since then, Sister Helen has been educating people about the death penalty and counseling death row prisoners, accompanying six men to their deaths.

In doing so, she suspected some were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions. She is working on another book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

The Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s campaign, Safe and Just Alternatives, will introduce a proposal in the 2014 session of the Washington State Legislature to end the death penalty, Victoria said.

For information, call 230-3017 or email

Link to Interfaith panel discussion on death penalty



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