DePaul Archives Acquire Prejean Death Penalty Papers & Dead Man Walking Manuscript

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ (Congregation of St. Joseph), has been an outspoken voice against the death penalty since the early 1980s when she was spiritual advisor to death row inmate Elmo Patrick “Pat” Sonnier.  Her advocacy against the death penalty resulted in two books, The Death of Innocents, and Dead Man Walking, which became a Hollywood film starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.

Sister Helen Prejean

Prejean has continued to work tirelessly against the death penalty from the basis of her deep religious conviction.  Her efforts led her to DePaul’s Center for Justice in Capital Cases (CJCC), earned her an honorary degree from DePaul, and built many connections between her and this institution.

That relationship is now honored through the deposit of her papers in the DePaul University Archives.  The Prejean Papers were acquired in December 2010 and detail her work with death row prisoners, tracking the history and development of her activism.  Some highlights of the collection are the manuscript drafts of both The Death of Innocents and Dead Man Walking; documentation of her work on the film version of the latter; her published work on the death penalty; records on the development of the Ministry Against the Death Penalty (MADP) in her religious order.

The collection also includes correspondences, manuscripts, videos, photographs, publications, awards and memorabilia. The resources in this collection will be available upon completion of final arrangement and description.

The addition of Prejean’s papers complements the University Archives’ other important collections including the Berrigan Collections (on nonviolent resistance), the Bassiouni Collection (on International Human Rights), the Burke Collection and the Brockman-Romero Collection (both on Catholic social issues).

Here is a link to a short video about Sister Prejean and her work with the archives.

For more information, contact Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University Libraries.

*Image Credit: Mary Ellen Mark. “Taking a Stand: Prejean outside the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.” 1993.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.