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Sister Helen Prejean

One of the best things about DePaul is the mass amount of speakers and established socialites that come and discuss their ambitions and lives with the students. Most of the time you do not have to RSVP to events but if the flyer asks for than it is a must! Most of the events I’ve attended were in the Student Center conference room or Cortelyou Commons​. Both of these facilities can hold many many people, and the events I’ve seen stem from a gender quality activist to a student run amateur drag show.

One of my goals for this quarter as well as upcoming school year is to attend more DePaul events. The most recent one I have seen was on a whim, but I’m more than glad that I attended. I had the honor of being in the presence of Sister Helen Prejean​. Although at first I did not recognize this name, once I looked deeper into who she was it hit me that she is a very influential person in the subject of the death penalty. She wrote Dead Man Walking which was turned into the award winning film featuring Sean Penn. Although this topic was pretty heavy for a sunny weekday afternoon, I knew that this was a prime opportunity to learn more about a subject that I am not well-versed in.

Before Sister went on stage there was an exhibition. The room was filled with hand written letters from the Stateville Correctional Center​. This series of letters was called “Why My Life Matters”. Most of the letters were background information about the convicted person, and appeals to bring back the parole board. Many of the letters were very well written and extremely thorough. This in particular gave me a huge reality check because the letters were written a month ago behind bars while I stand and read them sipping on a latte with the freedom to walk right out of there if I wanted too. On the floor of the room was scotch tape outlining the actual length and width of a prison cell. Just another tid-bit of information that further makes me realize the conditions prisoners live in.​

Sister Helen Prejean spoke for less than an hour, but she was extremely adamant about cultivating conversation about the topic with us, instead of just talking AT us. She had a panel discussion and invited people from the audience to come up to the microphone and answer questions. After a question had been asked she didn’t straight out answer it, but rather asked other members of the audience what they thought. I thought this tactic was warm and inviting and made everyone comfortable with talking about such a dark topic.

After the session as over, I felt like I knew more about the morality of punishment and the United States’ justice system. Sister Prejean has not only inspired the film industry, but also inspired conversation and change in the way people view the death sentence.

More events can be listed at the site here​.

Afterwards I bought a copy of her book and had it signed! Talk about an evening well spent. ​

 
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