An Invitation from Sr. Helen Prejean

December 11, 2013

dead-man-walking-20thDear Educators and Faith Leaders,

I invite you to join me in bringing my book, Dead Man Walking, to new generation. This book sparked a national debate on the death penalty in America, and it is just as relevant today with 32 states still allowing state-sanctioned killing. The book and the film it inspired, while familiar to most of us, is uncharted territory to this young generation of students. A journey into this unexplored territory is one that is deeply rewarding.

My own journey began when I accompanied Patrick Sonnier to execution in 1984. Since then, I have devoted my life to awakening citizens to abolish the death penalty. In the last five years we’ve seen a dramatic shift in attitude, particularly among young Catholics. Your moral leadership in our Catholic schools and your steady insistence on the Gospel call for social justice is crucial to this shift away from violent retribution towards compassion.

I believe that my book has also played a role in this awakening. It spent 31 weeks on The New York Times Bestsellers list, sold over 560,000 copies and, despite the seriousness of its topic, has proved itself to be accessible to all ages. An 8th grader told me that she read the book three times; a sophomore at Sam Houston University confessed that until Dead Man Walking he had never read a book “all the way through.”

This year, Random House published the 20th anniversary edition of Dead Man Walking, leaving us with 4,000 copies of the original edition that we can offer at a special rate to Catholic educators.

In addition to introducing your students to the book, there is another way you can use this story to inspire and engage your students: by participating in The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project. Tim Robbins, who wrote the play, believes that young people are the “bearers of the future,” and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Check out the details for my book and the School Theatre Project below. I hope you’ll partner with me in awakening your school community to this urgent, moral issue.

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ

Dead Man Walking – Special Rate for Catholic schools
We are excited to offer the original paperback edition of Dead Man Walking at a reduced rate of $240 per case of 24 books with free shipping. That’s only $10 per book. (Note: The 20th anniversary edition of Dead Man Walking is also available at $15 per book plus the cost of shipping.) For more information about purchasing Dead Man Walking and bringing the book into your school, please contact Project Manager Rachael Hudak on (312) 362-5573 or by e-mail. If your school is interested in teaching Dead Man Walking but has a limited budget, please contact us to make alternative arrangements.

Participate in The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project
Since the launch of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, more than 235 high schools and colleges across the country have produced the play, conducted academic courses on the death penalty, and brought the issue to life on their campuses through art, music, and public events. This powerful interdisciplinary program continues to prove itself as an accessible program which fosters deep reflection and engagement. We are excited to offer a newly revised script (updated in November 2013 by Tim Robbins) for the 10th season of the School Theatre Project. The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project is not only about exploring the issues, but also about giving young people a new way to think about the role of art in examining social issues. For more information, check out or contact the National Coordinator, Rachael Hudak, by e-mail.

This article was first featured in the December 2013 CMN Newsletter.