Sister Helen Prejean is first 2009-10 Harvie Social Justice Lecture at Saint Martin's University

August 31, 2009

Lacey, Washington – Sister Helen Prejean will discuss “The Ethics and Morality of State Death Penalties” at Saint Martin’s University in The Hal and Inge Marcus Pavilion on Thursday, October 1 at 7 p.m. This will be the inaugural event for the 2009-10 Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series. The event, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Thurston County Bar Association, the ACLU of Washington, and the Office of Intercultural Initiatives at Saint Martin’s University.

Sister Prejean, a leading advocate for the end of the death penalty, began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to the poor in New Orleans. While living in the St. Thomas public housing project, she became a pen-pal of Patrick Sonnier, who was convicted of killing two teenagers and sentenced to die in Louisiana’s electric chair at Angola State Prison. Sister Prejean began visiting Sonnier in prison and later turned her experiences into the book Dead Man Walking. She published a second book on the death penalty, The Death of Innocents, in 2005. Sister Prejean joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille (now The Congregation of St. Joseph) back in 1957. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans and a Masters degree in Religious Education from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada.

“The intentional taking of a human life that the death penalty entails has always been a matter of deep gravity and controversy. However, the growing number of recent instances in which persons sentenced to die for their crimes have been shown to be actually innocent of the offense—whether through DNA testing, recanted testimony, or demonstrably mistaken testimony—has added urgency to the discussion,” said Saint Martin’s University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Robert Hauhart. “Sister Helen Prejean has been among the most articulate opponents of the death penalty long before the recent spate of death row exonerations. Her appearance at Saint Martin’s should not be missed.”

The Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series was created by Dr. Hauhart to raise awareness of social justice issues within the community and to honor the work of Robert A. Harvie, former professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Saint Martin’s. Admission to the Harvie Lecture Series events is free and open to the public. Sister Prejean’s lecture is of special interest to Saint Martin’s freshman class this year, as all incoming freshmen are reading and discussing Dead Man Walking as part of their Freshman Seminar.

For more information about Sister Prejean, visit her website at or the Death Penalty Discourse Network at For more information on this event and the Harvie Lecture Series, contact Laura Hoff at

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 student from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its five extension campuses located at Fort Lewis Army Post, McChord Air Force Base, Olympic College, Centralia College, and Tacoma Community College.

For additional information:

Robert Hauhart, Ph.D., J.D.
Associate Professor, Criminal Justice

Genevieve Canceko Chan
Director of Communications & Marketing