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Don Bosco Prep Hosts Dead Man Walking Author and Death Row Advocate Sr. Helen Prejean

| February 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sister Helen Prejean Addresses Community and Students at Don Bosco Prep. Photo Courtesy of Don Bosco Prep.

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Don Bosco Prep
492 N. Franklin Turnpike
Ramsey, NJ 07446

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Release Date: Friday, February 27, 2015

Media Contact: Caryl Bixon-Gordon (201) 796-7788

Presentation on Social Justice and Human Rights Educates and Inspires Students and Community

RAMSEY, N.J., Feb. 27, 2015 – Author and death row advocate Sister Helen Prejean shared her universal message about dignity of life and cultivating empathy for others during two recent presentations hosted by Don Bosco Prep. Prejean, who rose to national prominence with the film version of her book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, spoke with hundreds of students, parents and community members about her work in counseling death row inmates and sparking national dialogue on capital punishment.

"People in this country don't think about this issue much because it's not something that touches their daily lives," said Prejean, who has been educating the public about the death penalty since 1984. "I invite each of you to spend some time learning about it and reflecting on it from all sides, so you can make informed decisions."

Prejean's presentation was part of a series developed to coincide with Don Bosco Prep's 2015 Centennial Celebration. School administrators unveiled a new student honor code at the start of the school year and designed monthly programs that address each point of the code. Prejean's work aligns with February's "Empathy" theme, which is focused on social justice and dignity of life.

"To help our students develop greater empathy for others, we wanted to broaden and deepen their understanding of what can be life-threatening and life diminishing," said Father James Heuser, Don Bosco Prep's director and president. "Sister Helen's unique perspective and her commitment to standing up for the rights of others provided important teachings for both our students and the community."

Prejean shared the story of how she became involved with death row inmates, which she wrote about at length in Dead Man Walking. She discussed her struggle to understand the issues from the perspectives of both the accused and the victim, and the lessons about forgiveness she learned from victims' families.

"When New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007, 62 families of murder victims testified against capital punishment," said Prejean. "These families are teaching us that forgiveness is about valuing human life and healing the community, not seeking revenge. It's about not letting the love in you be taken over by hate."  

Prejean has become an outspoken advocate on the issue of wrongful executions, which she examined in her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (Random House, 2004). She continues to work towards creating greater public awareness of how flaws in the death penalty system can lead to innocent people being executed.

"We reserve the death penalty for those whose crimes are ‘the worst of the worst', and we put our faith in government to decide who they are," said Prejean. "This might work if we had the best system of justice in the world. But in practice it fails because the system is broken. We're just fallible human beings."

Prejean referenced the current case of Richard Glossip, one of three Oklahoma inmates who are challenging the state's lethal injection protocol on the grounds that it might cause intense suffering. With evidence indicating the possibility of a wrongful conviction, she is asking the State of Oklahoma to grant Glossip a stay of execution with the prospect of clemency. Prejean urged the audience to learn more about the issue, saying "A death sentence is not an appropriate punishment for a case with even the possibility of innocence."

Prejean is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, which has taken a public stance against capital punishment; its non-profit Ministry Against the Death Penalty originated through her work. She also has been instrumental in helping to shape the Catholic Church's opposition to state executions. She is currently working on a third book, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

Don Bosco Prep is a private, Catholic, college preparatory high school for young men, grades 9 through 12. Administered by the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, a religious order of priests and brothers, Don Bosco Prep offers rigorous academics at the AP, honors and college preparatory levels. Broad offerings are also provided in extracurricular activities, clubs and athletics.

For more information about Don Bosco Prep programs, events or its college preparatory curriculum, call (201) 327-2049 or email advancement@donboscoprep.org.

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